Fresh water touches every part of daily life—from drinking water and sanitation, to agriculture and energy production. Unfortunately, for nearly half of the world’s population, water scarcity is a growing issue with devastating impacts to our communities, economies and nature. In the past, countries have primarily turned to more supply-side infrastructure, including reservoirs and canals, as solutions to increasing water demands. But we can no longer build our way out of scarcity. We must find ways to do more with less, and impact investment can provide a catalyst for revolutionary changes in water management.
Water markets can be a powerful mechanism for alleviating water scarcity, restoring ecosystems and driving sustainable water management. Water markets are based upon water rights which can be bought and sold, enabling water to be transferred from one user to another. A well-managed water market provides economic flexibility, encourages water saving measures and brings a variety of stakeholders to the table to find balance between the water needs of people and nature.
The Nature Conservancy’s new report, “Water Share: Using water markets and impact investment to drive sustainability,” explores the potential for water markets and impact investment to serve as part of the solution to global water scarcity. Water markets, when paired with creative investment solutions including The Nature Conservancy’s concept of Water Sharing Investment Partnerships, can help provide a more water-secure future for cities, agriculture, industries and nature.
Each year, cities around the world spend $90 billion to build infrastructure that’s used to deliver and treat water. To meet the needs of growing urban populations, some cities transport clean water thousands of kilometers to their residents, while other cities invest in more complex technology to treat local water resources. But nature has an important role to play in water delivery and treatment, one that has gone largely untapped.
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the International Water Association, has released a new report, Urban Water Blueprint: Mapping Conservation Solutions to the Global Water Challenge, which analyzes the state of water among more than 2,000 water sources and 530 cities worldwide. The report offers science-based recommendations for natural solutions that can be integrated alongside traditional infrastructure to improve water quality.