Key messages

  • Forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75 percent of the world’s accessible fresh water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs
  • About one-third of the world’s largest cities obtain a significant proportion of their drinking water directly from forested protected areas. The populations of major cities such as Mumbai, Bogotá and New York rely on forests for their water supplies. This number will increase as urban centres grow in size and population.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population – 8 out of 10 people - is exposed to high levels of threat to water security. By 2050, an extra 2.3 billion people are projected to be living in river basins under severe water stress, especially in North and South Africa, and South and Central Asia.
  • Forests act as natural water filters. Forests minimize soil erosion on site, reduce sediment in water bodies (wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers) and trap or filter water pollutants in the forest litter.
  • Climate change is altering forests’ role in regulating water flows and influencing the availability of water resources. Forests are at the forefront of reducing the effects of climate change. In respect of water, one benefit is forests’ cooling effect on the environment produced through evapotranspiration and the provision of shade. The impacts of climate change may also be manifested in an increase in catastrophes such as floods, droughts and landslides – all of which may be influenced by forest cover. Moreover, large-scale deforestation can have an impact on precipitation patterns. 
  • Improved water resource management can show considerable economic gains. By 2030, the world is projected to face a 40 percent global water deficit under the business-as-usual climate scenario. However, every US$1 invested in watershed protection can save anywhere from US$7.5 to almost US$200 in costs of a new water treatment and filtration facility. In developing countries, a US$15 to US$30 billion investment in improved water resources management could have direct annual income returns in the range of US$60 billion.
  • Forests have a crucial role in building and strengthening resilience. When sustainably managed, forests contribute significantly to reducing soil erosion and the risk of landslides and avalanches, natural disasters which can disrupt the source and supply of freshwater. Forests protect and rehabilitate areas prone to soil degradation and erosion in upland areas.




Field projects

The AECID-funded “Inter Regional Project for Poverty Alleviation and Combating Desertification through collaborative Watershed Management” is active in Ecuador, Mauritania and Morocco. It aims to increase the capacity of key stakeholders to design and implement collaborative and integrated watershed management programs in arid and semi-arid lands with a view to fight poverty, improve food security, combat desertification and promote environmental good governance. 

The GEF-funded project “Integrated Natural Resources Management of the Fouta Djallon Highlands” involves 8 countries in West Africa: Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Fouta Djallon Highlands are considered the water tower of the entire sub-region, therefore the projects aims to reverse the root causes of environmental degradation impacting on hydrology, by ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and by diversifying rural livelihoods and income-generating activities.

In Ecuador, the GEF-funded project “Management of Chimborazo`s Natural Resources” is supporting the conservation and sustainable management of Chimborazo’s páramos, by promoting improved natural resources management practices, strengthening relevant legal and policy frameworks, and building local capacity in the sustainable use of natural resources.


last updated:  Monday, October 17, 2016