Green technology Trust Fund

In water we trust: How Quito's water trust funds succeedBelow the snow-capped mountains of Ecuador and Colombia lie the páramos, high-altitude grasslands of the northern Andes threaded by frigid rivers and covered in rugged brush, cloud forests and lagoons. This landscape captures and stores a vast amount of water upon which downstream residents depend, from smallholder farmers to city dwellers.

Today, expanding agriculture and demand for water from growing cities are putting increasing pressure on such mountain watersheds. What can be done to ensure they will be able to continue to meet the needs of future generations? One intriguing solution is the establishment of trust funds that pay dividends for conservation projects to protect ecosystems and the valuable water they harbor. Such funds already have been used to fend off threats to watersheds in more than a dozen locations across Latin America and are being explored in Asia and Africa.

The Quito Experiment

The first experiment with water trust funds was set up in Ecuador in the early 1990s. The Nature Conservancy had charged its director of Latin American operations, Juan Black, with finding a way to protect the Condor Bioreserve, which sits east of the capital city of Quito and provides the city with 80 percent of its water. The problem: The páramo inside and directly abutting the bioreserve was being degraded as farmers slowly were expanding their grazing lands. Black knew that Quito needed to protect the ecosystem and guarantee the continued safety of its Condor Bioreserve watershed. He also knew that Quito’s water company EPMAPS (at that time it was named EMAAP-Q) and other businesses were being directly affected by upstream activities. Working out of a small office at 9, 300 feet in Quito, Black decided to take an economic approach to safeguard the region.

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