Water Currents: WASH and Freshwater Conservation

Watershed conservation contributes to the long-term sustainability of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Protecting watersheds and free-flowing river systems, lakes, streams, intact wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas not only bolsters ecosystem resilience, but also helps protect WASH infrastructure from the impacts of natural disasters.

This issue highlights resources and practical experience in building innovative, cost-effective programs that simultaneously address WASH and environmental challenges through integration and cooperation between development sectors, offering opportunities to produce better results for both people and nature. The integration of WASH and freshwater conservation also contributes to the objective of the USAID Water and Development Plan in the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy to improve the management of water resources.

In addition, this year the theme for the upcoming World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden, will highlight the importance of healthy ecosystems for both WASH service provision and plant and animal habitat.

This issue of Water Currents was prepared in partnership with Environmental Incentives, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), and the Washington, D.C.-based WASH-Conservation Working Group (contact Colleen Sorto). The mission of ABCG, which is supported by USAID, is to advance understanding of critical biodiversity conservation challenges and their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.


Country/Regional Studies/Articles

Maintaining Water Security in Peru Through Green InfrastructureUSAID, May 2018. This ecosystem-based adaptation case study highlights the USAID/Peru Mission’s three subnational projects. These projects focused on building local community and government capacity for improved environmental governance and implementing green infrastructure approaches to strengthen ecosystems and stabilize the provision of water.

Bringing Trees Back Means Bringing Water Back in UgandaJane Goodall Institute, April 2018. The Fletcher Watershed project planted a total of 592,354 trees, helping re-establish and secure watersheds and ecosystems that benefitted nearly 1,500 Ugandan households.

A Win-Win Approach to BiodiversityGlobal Waters, March 2018. This article discusses two pilot activities in Uganda and South Africa to promote biodiversity conservation and environmental preservation in communities lacking basic human needs such as regular water supply and sanitation.

An Integrated Vision for Health in Uganda's Budongo-Bugoma CorridorABCG, July 2017. In this webinar, Dr. Peter Apell from The Jane Goodall Institute provides an overview of his work on the integration of freshwater conservation and WASH (FW-WASH) in northern Uganda.

Access to Water, Income Generating Activities and Forest Conservation: Experience of Communities Around Chome Natural Reserve in TanzaniaONGAWA, April 2017. This report provides a detailed assessment of how the accessibility of water and income-generating activities in local livelihoods can contribute to forest conservation.

Men and Women Roles in Water Conservation: Comparing Experiences in South Africa and UgandaABCG, April 2017. The Jane Goodall Institute's Dr. Peter Apell, primatologist by training, and Conservation South Africa’s Nolubabalo Kwayimani, municipal support coordinator, discuss lessons learned from their respective experiences assessing the roles of men and women in managing freshwater resources and implementing WASH projects.

Fresh Water, Safe Water: Integrating Freshwater Conservation and WASH in Sub-Saharan AfricaNew Security Beat, August 2017. This blog post discusses a webinar that highlighted tools and approaches being used to develop and implement integrated freshwater conservation and WASH programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Freshwater Conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: Integration GuidelinesABCG, 2013. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide guidance to health, development, and conservation professionals in sub-Saharan Africa on how to plan, coordinate, develop, and achieve mutually supported WASH and freshwater conservation outcomes.

Linking Biodiversity Conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: Experiences from Sub-Saharan AfricaABCG, 2012. Integration of WASH and biodiversity conservation is occurring on an ad hoc basis at the project level. There are some good examples of projects that truly integrate the two sectors. This report profiles four case studies that illustrate important aspects of integration and the benefits of these approaches.

Economic Aspects

In Cusco, Peru, an Investment in the Country Is an Investment in the CityForest Trends, July 2018. This blog post discusses the use of water user tariffs to protect water quality at its source, by expanding access to rural sanitation in upstream communities and compensating land managers who implement sustainable agriculture and conservation practices.

Leveraging Nature-Based Solutions for Cost-Effective Water ManagementIRC, March 2018. In this podcast, IRC’s CEO Patrick Moriarty talks about using green infrastructure to effectively manage and conserve water resources.

Beyond the Source: The Environmental, Economic and Community Benefits of Source Water ProtectionNature Conservancy, 2017. By restoring forests and working with farmers and ranchers to improve land management practices, water quality can be improved and water treatment costs can be reduced for four out of five downstream cities serving 1.4 billion people.

Health Aspects

Upstream Watershed Condition Predicts Rural Children’s Health Across 35 Developing CountriesNature Communications, October 2017. Diarrheal disease (DD) due to contaminated water is a major cause of child mortality globally. This study finds that higher upstream tree cover is associated with lower probability of DD downstream, bolstering evidence that forests and wetlands can provide ecosystem services that help maintain water quality.

One Health: A Holistic Approach towards Freshwater ConservationABCG, October 2017. In this webinar, Nolubabalo Kwayimani provides an overview of the "One Health" framework that integrates WASH activities with freshwater conservation, improved livestock farming, and restoration efforts in South Africa's Mzimvubu landscape.

Water Security

Partnerships for Water Security: WASH Community of Practice Meeting ReportABCG, April 2018. The Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network and ABCG held a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 15, 2018, to discuss building partnerships for water security. This report featured highlights of that discussion.

Why is Water Security Key for WASH Services Delivery? Wetlands International, December 2017. This blog highlights the report, “WASH and Water Security: Integration and the Role of Civil Society,” which explains the need for solutions that focus on integrated approaches rather than sectoral solutions to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.

WASH and Water Security: Integration and the Role of Civil SocietyWetlands International, November 2017. This report lists of 24 examples integrating WASH, water quality control issues, integrated water resources management (IWRM), and ecosystem management. The examples address integration at different water governance levels—from the global to very local—and explore how integration can shape policies and institutional setups, financing, and programming.

Ecosystem-Based Adaptation and Water SecurityUSAID, August 2017. Ecosystem-based adaptation is a nature-based method to address water insecurity and climate change adaptation by strengthening natural systems, conserving biodiversity, and maintaining the goods and services that ecosystems provide for human development.

Additional Resources

How Good Water Resource Management Leads to Improved WASH ServicesWatershed, March 2018. This documentary highlights key issues in IWRM and how they impact WASH. It draws on the perceptions, experiences, lessons learned, and challenges shared by different actors at village, subcounty, and district levels.

WASH Matters for Conservation, Conservation Matters for WASHWorld Vision International (WVI)Conservation International (CI), March 2018. In honor of World Water Day, WVI hosted a webinar focusing on nature-based solutions to WASH issues. Colleen Sorto, director for development partnerships from CI, and others discussed their work promoting integrated approaches to WASH and freshwater ecosystem conservation.

Connecting Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene with Fresh Water Conservation and Climate Resilience: The Need to Facilitate Integration in Development AssistanceNatural Resources Defense Council, 2014. All too often, the development sector addresses WASH, climate resilience, and freshwater conservation as separate issues. Integrated solutions can help end extreme poverty and ensure long-term access to basic human needs such as food, clean water, and sanitation facilities.

Freshwater Conservation and WASH Monitoring and Evaluation Framework and IndicatorsABCG, 2014. This document provides a framework for project implementers to use when designing an integrated FW-WASH project.

Freshwater Conservation–Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Fact SheetABCG, November 2017. Effective biodiversity conservation requires empowering local communities and authorities to address the root causes of human-induced pressures, including limited community access to water resources and poor resource governance.


African Biodiversity Collaborative Group. ABCG’s overarching mission is to advance understanding of critical biodiversity conservation challenges and their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa. ABCG creates innovative conservation solutions by fostering collaborative and adaptive learning opportunities that help practitioners improve, scale, and replicate, while generating valuable user-driven knowledge disseminated globally.
ABCG WASH Community of Practice (CoP). ABCG formed this CoP with the overall aim of establishing integrated learning between FW-WASH practitioners. The CoP provides a collaborative platform and space where global health and conservation professionals can share knowledge and expertise, learn, and solve issues together, and enable FW-WASH practitioners to connect and organize around common issues.


If you would like to feature your organization's materials or suggest other content for upcoming issues of Water Currents, please send them to Dan Campbell, Knowledge Creation/WASH Specialist, at dcampbell@waterckm.com.


Water Currents
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USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment (E3) Water Office
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