NCEAS Product 25139

Bremer, Leah L.; Auerbach, Dan; Goldstein, Joshua; Vogl, Adrian; Shemie, Daniel; Kroeger, Timm; Nelson, Joanna; Benitez, Silvia; Calvache, Alejandro; Guimarães, João; Herron, Colin; Higgins, Jonathan; Klemz, Claudio; León, Jorge; Lozano, Juan S.; Moreno, Pedro H.; Nuñez, Francisco; Veiga, Fernando; Tiepolo, Gilberto. 2016. One size does not fit all: Natural infrastructure investments within the Latin American Water Funds Partnership. Ecosystem Services. Vol: 17. Pages 217-236. (Abstract) (Online version)


Water funds seek to promote long-term watershed conservation with multiple benefits for biodiversity and human well-being. This approach has grown rapidly, particularly in Latin America where more than 30 water funds were in operation or development by 2014. To meet the need for evidence to guide ongoing decisions, we assessed the goals and strategies of 16 programs that were operating in 2013–2014 in association with the Latin American Water Funds Partnership. Our findings underscore the diversity within this approach to investment in watershed services. The various financial, governance, and management mechanisms adopted by these programs reflected their distinct biophysical, socio-economic, and political contexts. All 16 water funds aimed to secure water quality (15/16) and/or quantity (including the timing of flows) (14/16). The majority of programs also explicitly strived for co-benefits to local livelihoods (9/16) and biodiversity (11/16). Public funding secured through legislation provided the most funding to date, but private, NGO, and development bank source were also important for some programs. While programs have actively engaged rural land stewards, this stakeholder group was represented on governance boards in just 4 of 16 funds. Additionally, while the majority of water funds with activities on the ground (13/16) reported biophysical and social impact monitoring (8/16), many faced significant logistical, technical, and funding challenges to its implementation. We recommend greater inclusion of rural land stewards on governance boards, increased engagement of the private sector, and a sustained commitment to an evidence-based approach to increase the likelihood that programs will attain their goals.