Water Reserves | WWF
© Thor Morales/WWF-Mexico

Water Reserves

Safeguarding Water for the Environment

Water is becoming an increasingly global challenge. Water extractions and river basin modifications are increasing day by day without considering environment needs. There is a misconception of the value of water in the environment, weak or missing regulatory frameworks, and increasing pressure from productive sectors and infrastructure development to secure their own water. Particularly in LAC where only 10% of water resources has been allocated, a preventive allocation of water for the environment offers a huge opportunity to take immediate action, and can set a precedent for future development.

© Simon de TREY-WHITE / WWF-UK

The need for better water management

For many countries across the world, allocation of water for the environment is considered a competitive user rather than understanding that the environment is valuable resource that support all water users and a crucial element of water security. 

This is problematic as estimates show that with current population growth and water management practices, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030. 

© Jorge Garcia

The Water Reserves Initiative

The water reserves approach is a science-based allocation policy aiming to safeguarding water in the environment and transforming water management.

The main goal of the initiative is to allocate to the environment at least 30% of the total water available in LAC to secure protection of the main freshwater ecosystems and free-flowing rivers, and the benefits that flow from them.   

© Edward Parker / WWF

We have a unique opportunity to implement a preventive allocation of water to the environment with the potential to trigger the transformation of water management practice.

Our Approach

There are two main components that WWF's if focusing on to create Water Reserves: 
  • Identifying potential water reserves. These are river basins with high water availability and high ecological importance
  • Key intervention to synergize policies, information and knowledge gaps (eflows assesments, etc.), allocation mechanisms, capacity needs, social demands (native communities), international commitments, and new approaches such as adaptation to climate change, risk management, green infrastructure, and international cooperation.

Our Success

In the case of Mexico, water reserves have triggered a nationwide program to overcome water over extraction and to understand the value of water in the environment for water management and for biodiversity conservation. The water reserves experience has also provide the right understanding of capacities and resources needed to integrate a regional proposal, and the capacity to identify opportunities to speed up the process. These opportunities refer to water management, energy development, adaptation to climate change, biodiversity conservation and restoration, social demands, international commitments, etc. In addition, these water reserves represent an outstanding strategy for ecosystem based adaptation to climate change, both for water risk management and biodiversity conservation.
© WWF-Mexico