Water Guardians

Although Wright Friday and Paulo Henrique Pereira live 5,000 miles apart — separated by language, culture and hemisphere— both men are striving to do the same thing: protect land to conserve clean water for people.  

Deforestation affects an ecosystem's ability to provide clean drinking water to the people who live within it. Trees act as natural water filters — they help retain water and topsoil. When trees are cut down, rainwater washes away soil, leading to a buildup of sediment in rivers.

The Conservancy is partnering with governments and private landowners to stop deforestation in watersheds and help ensure continued supplies of fresh water where they’re most needed.

In Texas and Brazil, Friday and Pereira are working with the Conservancy to protect water in vastly different ways. See how each man is helping to ensure his local community will have access to clean drinking water for years to come. 

Wright Friday   Paulo Henrique Pereira
Name:   Name:
  Wright Friday     Paulo Henrique Pereira

  Uvalde, Texas     Extrema, Brazil

  Rancher     Secretary of Environment for
Brazil’s Extrema municipality

How He’s Protecting Water:
How He’s Protecting Water:

In 2008, Wright Friday partnered with The Nature Conservancy and the city of San Antonio to place a conservation easement on his 7,200-acre family ranch, which lies over the critical recharge zone for the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for 1.8 million people in and around San Antonio — the only large city in America primarily dependent on an aquifer for municipal water. For nearly a decade, the Conservancy and the city of San Antonio have worked throughout the Edwards Plateau to protect critical the rivers and streams that provide water for people, while also conserving habitat for endangered plant and animal species.


Half of São Paulo’s population — roughly 9 million people — drink water from the Cantareira Water System in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. But deforestation from farming, ranching and logging upstream has caused water quality and quantity to drop in recent years. To help fix the problem, the Conservancy supports Brazil’s first Water Producer Program in Extrema, Brazil, which supplies water to the Cantareira System. Through an initiative launched by the Extrema municipal government, the local watershed committee collects fees from water users that then go to the farmers and ranchers who protect or restore riparian forests on their lands.  Paulo Henrique Pereira, Environmental Secretary for the Extrema municipality, runs the program, and even grows seedlings for Water Producer restoration in an expansive nursery next to the department's offices. Participating landowners are earning about $32 per acre per year for the water their forests are producing and filtering.

His Thoughts:   His Thoughts:

“You have two choices at some point in time, whether you just sell the country or you try to protect it for generations to come, so that they can appreciate not only what my granddad had, and my dad, but what came to me as an inheritance also.

"It’s definitely good for San Antonio if they’re going to have the quantity and quality of pure water that we see in the Nueces and the Frio, and that is recharged into the aquifer through this land. I want my grandkids and kids 100 years from now to say ‘hey, they took care of this for us, and we’re glad’.”


“People who allow nature to produce clean air and water on their lands—by letting their forests grow, for example—should be financially compensated for what they produce, just like a farmer earns money for the crops he sells. Changing our thinking about producing and valuing these resources is the only way we're going to get these areas that protect our resources properly restored.

"We're changing these landowners' minds, shaping their way of thinking about their lands, waters and surroundings. We're changing the way they think about conservation and the economic value of services that nature provides. It takes time to change mentalities, but we're changing them. And to me, that's this project's greatest success."



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