The Nature Conservancy is celebrating the anniversary of its Great Rivers Partnership (GRP), which was created five years ago to help guide protection of the world’s largest river systems.
The Conservancy and Caterpillar Inc., through its Caterpillar Foundation, developed the GRP to transform the way large working river systems are preserved and protected.
Great rivers, generally defined as floodplain rivers with large and predictable seasonal floods, support life for people as well as native plants and animals. As working rivers, these systems face challenges from incompatible development, agriculture, flood management and water flow restrictions.
The Conservancy ranks conservation of great rivers among its global priorities.
Caterpillar—and many other generous individuals, foundations and corporations—have supported conservation of large river systems through the GRP. Work has initially focused on rivers from the Paraguay-Paraná in Brazil, the Yangtze in China and to the Mississippi River in the United States.
Beginning with these three rivers and expanding beyond to include other great rivers such as the Zambezi in Africa and the Magdalena in Colombia, the GRP is working with partners to develop an integrated approach to river basin management. The conservation, restoration and sustainable development of working rivers depends upon collaborative efforts from stakeholders across interest sectors. That is why the GRP engages scientists, academics, government and non-governmental organizations, industry leaders and others to influence public policy and find solutions that holistically address river issues.
“The quality and abundance of fresh water will eventually be at the core of all sustainability efforts around the world, because it is ultimately affected by decisions we make to grow food, secure energy, or manage floods and climate change,” said GRP Executive Director, Michael Reuter. “We are pleased that with our partners, through the GRP, we have begun to catalyze and strengthen these discussions with scientists, governments, and river users on four continents during our first five years.”
GREAT RIVERS PARTNERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
The United States
The Mississippi River is the domestic focus of the Great Rivers Partnership. Conservation efforts include working collaboratively with partners to accomplish conservation that has benefits river-system wide. This includes large-scale floodplain restoration and reconnection, helping farmers connect with conservation programs to improve water quality in tributary streams, and working with diverse stakeholders to advance better integration of how the river system is managed. The GRP played a key role in organizing the first meeting of America’s Inner Coast Summit in 2010, a conference bringing together over 75 organizations from across interest sectors to help establish a vision for the Mississippi River. The GRP also shares best practices and scientific data through an exchange with China’s Yangtze River program.
With support from GRP, Brazil’s National Water Agency (ANA) implemented the first Water Producer Program in the Piracicaba-Capivari-Jundiaí watershed in southeast Brazil. The program compensates rural landowners who help improve water quality and quantity by preserving and restoring forests and grasslands along streams and by implementing best management practices on cropland and cattle ranches. This work has led to six more Water Producer projects in other watersheds in Brazil, helping improve the health of rivers that supply drinking water to some of Brazil’s major cities including Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo by reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff from agricultural lands. The most recent project, launched in Brazil’s Cerrado region in June 2009, is protecting water quality in the Pipiripau River, a headwater stream of the Paraná River. More than 180,000 of Brasilia’s 2.6 million residents depend on the Pipiripau for water.
The GRP is working in partnership with U.S. Geological Survey to help establish a scientific monitoring station on the Yangtze River that will be based upon the scientific monitoring work on the Mississippi River so that data can be compared between the two river systems. The GRP also helped to fund initial work on the Yangtze River that led to the China Blueprint, a nationwide assessment of priority conservation areas which has informed their conservation and strategy plan and helped redesign and expand China’s nature reserve system. A third focus has been supporting the creation of alternative scenarios for hydropower development so as to minimize its impact on essential river flows.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.