Above: the Jimenoa River, Jarabacoa, Yaque del Norte Water Fund (Photo: The Nature Conservancy)
By Erick F. Conde
Securing water supplies for communities has become a challenge for water managers across the world. In the Dominican Republic, 20% of the population does not have access to water from the nation’s aqueduct system according to the United Nations, and as rainfall amounts are less predictable due to a changing climate, it becomes necessary to develop innovative strategies to better protect watersheds for the people of the Dominican Republic.
The Nature Conservancy, in its mission to conserve the lands and water on which life depends, is promoting the establishment of Water Funds at a worldwide scale. Water Funds are a unique financial mechanism that provides critical funding needed to help ensure water security for communities while also providing the additional benefit of protecting important forest habitats upstream.
Two Water Funds are being established in the Dominican Republic as part of the Latin America Water Funds Partnership, which was created in 2011 as the platform to promote the creation of 32 Water Funds across the region. The two funds are the Santo Domingo Water Fund and the Yaque del Norte Water Fund, which combined will help protect water sources for more than 5 million Dominicans – more than half of the entire population. This also marks the first time that Water Funds are being established on an island nation in the Caribbean.
The Dominican Republic’s funds will support activities such as reducing sedimentation of rivers and dams, reducing disposal of waste, implementing better agricultural practices, and increasing public awareness about the protection of watersheds. And wildlife benefits, too, as birds, fish, mammals and other creatures dependent on these forests and rivers have a healthier environment to thrive in.
Perhaps one of the most compelling aspects of the Dominican Republic Water Funds is how many organizations from the public and private sector, both Dominican and global, believe strongly in this effort and have come together to support it.
For instance, the Inter-American Development Bank, Coca-Cola/Bepensa Dominicana (the local bottling company), and Fundación PROPAGAS have been key supporters of the overall effort.
Local non-profit organizations that will have responsibility for the Santo Domingo Water Fund, once operational, include CEDAF (Centro para el Desarrollo Agropecuario y Forestal), ECORED (Red Nacional de Apoyo Empresarial a la Protección Ambiental), CAASD (Corporación de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Santo Domingo), Fundación Universitaria Dominicana Pedro Henriquez Ureña and Fundación Sur Futuro.
For the Yaque del Norte Water Fund, APEDI (Asociación para el Desarrollo, Inc.), Plan Yaque, Plan Sierra, CORAASAN (Corporación de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Santiago), and ISA University will have responsibility.
Islands across the Caribbean are struggling with water security issues, as well as loss of biodiversity due to deforestation. Our hope is that the Dominican Republic Water Funds model can be a potential solution for other governments, businesses, and communities to consider in protecting their water and forest resources.
Erick F Conte is the Water Funds Specialist at The Nature Conservancy.