Source water protection is first and foremost a strategy for securing clean, reliable natural water sources. The benefits of this approach are documented in “Beyond the Source: the environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection,” a new report developed by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the Natural Capital Project, Forest Trends, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Water Funds Partnership. (Download the executive summary)
This global analysis demonstrates that four out of five of the more than 4,000 cities studied could meaningfully reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in the water they use through three source water protection activities—reforestation of pastureland, forest protection and the planting of cover crops.
In many cases, source water protection can pay for itself through water treatment savings. The Conservancy found that one in six of the cities studied could see a positive return on investment in source water protection through reduced annual treatment costs alone. But even cities that don’t break even on utility costs may realize great value through the other benefits that source water protection offers for people living in and around upstream watersheds and for the natural ecosystems that these watersheds support.