This grant will support NCI to expand the use of watershed protection models that monetize environmental services through the enactment of local legislation and protect ecosystems. In 2009, NCI was instrumental in establishing the Fondo Regional del Agua (FORAGUA), a regional water fund in southern Ecuador that addresses the need to provide safe drinking water to citizens in smaller municipalities in the country. The fund responds to citizen demand for clean water and reflects local efforts to protect forested watersheds that supply water to more than 26,000 people in the Loja region. The fund has been so successful that municipalities have approached to request assistance in structuring their programs.
With this grant, NCI will work to increase the number of municipalities participating in the FORAGUA trust and to assist a water fund based in Cuenca in restructuring its membership guidelines to include municipalities. Fifteen municipal councils are currently implementing or planning to implement watershed protection through FORAGUA. The goal is to move those municipalities in the preliminary discussion phases to formal action and to expand the program to include an additional 10 municipalities. Cuenca's water fund was established in 2008 to protect the Paute River Basin, which produces nearly 50 percent of Ecuador's hydroelectric energy. Members of the trust include the Water Enterprise of Cuenca, Ecuador's national electric company, the power plant, a university and two NGOs but none of the 16 local municipalities. NCI will provide technical assistance in a pilot effort to redefine the fund and provide technical assistance to accommodate participation by local municipalities.