PROTECTING CRITICAL WATER SOURCES IN ECUADOR
In Ecuador, Water Protection Areas (WPAs) are a unique conservation measure aimed at safeguarding water resources for local populations and protecting key watersheds and their surrounding ecosystems. These areas legally shield forests and natural ecosystems from harmful activities like mining, ensuring a clean water supply and food security for local communities. By prioritizing water source protection, we also engage local populations in conservation and ensure the preservation of the remarkable biological and cultural diversity in these regions.
Recent Achievements: Four New WPA’s in the last month
In October of 2023, four new WPAs were declared in the Amazon and Southern Sierra regions of Ecuador, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition, Nature and Culture International, and local organizations. On October 3rd, the Verdun Water Protection Area was declared, becoming the first water protection area in the province of Loja and the 23rd at the national level. With an area of just over 20,000 acres, the water protection area benefits approximately 8,000 residents, both directly and indirectly.
Similarly, on October 12, 2023, two key Water Protection Areas were established that protect water in the Amazon: Yantzaza and El Pangui.
With these two WPAs, the total number of areas in Ecuador reached 26. The Yantzaza Water Protection Area covers an area of 7,845 acres and benefits over 19,000 people in the region. On the other hand, the El Pangui Water Protection Area benefits around 1,280 people and spans 10,410 acres.
Finally, on October 20th, the Retén Ichubamba Water Protection Area was declared, the 27th in the country, covering 11,104 acres, ensuring access to water and food sovereignty for 4,109 residents of the Guamote region in the province of Chimborazo.
NATURE AND CULTURE’S ROLE IN ESTABLISHING WATER PROTECTION AREAS IN ECUADOR
Between 2019 and 2022, Nature and Culture International led a national-level hydrological study, resulting in a Map of Zones of Hydric Importance by level of priority that spans approximately 17.3 million acres. This study served to help the government of Ecuador prioritize the protection of their watershed projects.
To date, 27 Water Protection Areas have been established, with Nature and Culture contributing to the creation and management of at least fifteen of these areas, covering a total of 156,404 acres.
The Ecuadorian environmental water authority requested the support of strategic allies such as Nature and Culture to achieve a goal of 445,000 acres protected under its Water Protection Plan before the end of 2023, but they have already surpassed that goal with 476,382 acres designated as Water Protection Areas and there are at least 5 more WPAs expected to be announced with Nature and Culture in 2023.
“Since 2018, Nature and Culture has been committed to supporting the Ministry of Environment and Water in identifying strategic and high-priority areas to sustain water resources. The national prioritization map for the protection of water resources was updated, and based on this, we have collaborated with the ministry in establishing 15 WPAs in the country. Delivering a clear message to local communities and organized groups has been crucial in gaining their support for these initiatives and ensuring the success of the project”says José Romero, Water Protection Areas Coordinator at Nature and Culture.
Community Effort and Ongoing Work
Nature and Culture’s work in protecting critical water sources has been made possible thanks to the financial support of Re:wild, which has allowed us to assist in the creation of 7 WPAs this year, with a few more in the final stages of their creation.
Nature and Culture has been a key partner, supporting Ecuador’s constitutional mandates to ensure water security and food sovereignty for the country. Our unwavering commitment to safeguarding Ecuador’s water resources is fortified by the invaluable support and collaboration of local communities, our partners in the Ecuadorian government, and our donors, who make this important work possible.