Conservation Alternatives

What if the Feasibility Analysis indicates that a Water Fund is NOT the right tool for addressing a known water security issue?

Rio Grande Water Fund, New Mexico

The results of analyses conducted under either the Feasibility Phase OR the Design Phase may indicate that a Water Fund is ultimately not the best tool for addressing a particular water security issues(s). In these cases, the idea is not to abandon the pursuit of a solution. There are a range of approaches that could be adopted as conservation alternatives to Water Funds. This includes taking additional steps to improve local conditions in order to enhance the viability of a Water Fund in the local context.

Below we provide a list of issues that may indicate a Water Fund is NOT the right tool and potential alternatives to consider:

International or Jurisdictional Boundaries

  • Issue

    Jurisdictional issues can create challenges that are difficult to overcome via the water fund concept. For instance, in a transboundary watershed, these issues may be related to a lack of joint collaboration across political boundaries, the absence of joint legal mechanisms, significant distances between stakeholders, or policy gaps that would prevent a water fund from achieving its goals.

  • Alternatives

    Overcoming jurisdictional boundaries will typically require the formulation of an international treaty or partnership. A few alternatives that could be pursued include:

    ● exploring may be to consider if there are any partnerships that could be formed with other organizations to achieve desired co-benefits;

    ● exploring what steps are necessary to develop a policy agenda that would achieve the goals for the watershed;

    ● exploring the potential for advancing an international treaty that would achieve the goals for the watershed; and/or

    ● exploring the potential for policy changes in all jurisdictions of concern (e.g. see Great Lakes Compact).

Lack of political will

  • Issue

    The lack of 'political will' in a given context may be too significant of a challenge to overcome in regards to launching a water fund. The absence of political support for a water fund will typically be adverse to both the near-term and long-term development of a fund (i.e. sustainability of the fund from a regulatory, financial, political, and/or social perspective).

  • Alternatives

    Overcoming issues related to a lack of political will typically requires engagement on the part of the advocates for the water fund in terms of education, leadership, and knowledge sharing. A few alternatives that could be pursued include:

    ● leading a citizen awareness campaign to build support for source water protection;

    ● exploring the potential for Conservation Campaign Tools to provide further insights into the political environment;

    ● offering concepts detailed in the Toolbox as examples of where the water fund concept has succeeded and key ideas for developing a fund;

    ● seeking corporate champions that will promote practice changes and water stewardship; and/or

    ● exploring the potential for transaction strategies, such as water markets.

Political Instability / Physical Insecurity

  • Issue

    A Water Fund may not be feasible in a given context due to political instability and/or physical insecurity.

  • Alternatives

    While resolving political instability is generally beyond the scope of a Water Fund, steps can still be taken to move those contexts towards water security. In particular, steps would be taken to promote corporate practice changes that are more readily able to withstand political changes (e.g. promote source water protection and watershed stewardship plans even in the absence of a water fund).

Lack of interest from downstream users

  1. Issue

    The lack of interest in a water fund from downstream users can be problematic, particularly when they are large water users. For instance, cases may arise where downstream users are not willing to pay or the benefits from a proposed water fund are not sufficiently high to garner interest from those users (i.e. ROI is too low).

  2. Alternatives

    A lack of interest from downstream users can lead to significant challenges in terms of both establishing and sustaining a water fund. A few alternatives that could be pursued include:

    ● exploring the role of conservation philanthropy, grant funding, and public funding (e.g. in the context of the U.S., the Farm Bill); and/or

    ● matching traditional funding to downstream payers to increase the overall ROI for those users.

Change in land practices won't solve the issue

  • Issue

    In some contexts, no amount of changes to land practices and use will lead to a resolution of identified water issues. For instance, situations where demand for water far exceeds the available supply will likely not be resolved by a water fund. Alternative approaches should be explored in these cases that can rather complement or replace the water fund as the key tool for achieving the goals for water security and the ecological integrity of the watershed.

  • Alternatives

    Strategically improving or modifying land use practices is a core strategy employed under the water fund concept. For instance, implementing agricultural best management practices, forest protection, riparian buffers, and wetlands are all common strategies under water funds. As such, if these types of land use changes are not likely to resolve an identified water issue, a range of alternatives should be explored to secure the benefits that were originally envisioned. A few alternatives that could be pursued include:

    ● complete a more innovative Return on Investment analysis (ROI) (e.g. analyze other co-benefits and attract other prospective funders with these values); and/or

    ● build awareness among large water users (e.g. city residents, consolidated downstream users, etc.) and employ demand reduction strategies, water trading, and/or water efficiency investments.