Ayampe river ecuador
River Yanuncay The Río Yanuncay is a tributary of the Río Paute in Ecuador’s Azuay Province. © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy in Ecuador


Water Security. Investing in nature to secure our most vital resource.

Instead of paying for expensive industrial filtration, by financing upstream landowners to use sustainable farming practices and conserve/restore natural areas, The Nature Conservancy protects water at the source, guaranteeing cleaner, less expensive water once it reaches users.

More than 50% of Ecuadorians benefit from TNC Water Funds that safeguard water flowing into Quito, Paute, Tungurahua and Guayaquil. We protect water by:

  • Protecting and restoring critically important upstream habitats.
    • We rejuvenate degraded landscapes, restore forests or plant new ones to harness the many services nature provides (flood control, sediment and nutrients retention, water filtration, pollination, clean air, climate change resilience).
  • Transforming how we use nature to sustain ourselves.
    • Through our science and partnerships, we encourage innovative practices and policies like the Latin American Alliance of Water Funds, to ensure that we grow our food, safeguard freshwater and source our energy as sustainable as possible.
  • Inspiring collective action.
    • Galvanize leaders, from policy makers and communities to lawmakers and business leaders, ensuring the adoption of a sustainable rural development model that can be broadly applied.
Little girl Ayampe river ecuador
Collecting water Above, women collect water from the Ayampe River. The river supports not only the communities on its banks but also cities as far as Guayaquil that depend on its naturally filtered water. © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy

TNC's first Water Fund (a revolutionary concept pioneered by TNC in which rather than pay for expensive industrial filtration, water users pay upstream landowners to use good farming practices and to conserve or restore natural areas that protect water at the source) was established in Quito in 2000. The concept has rapidly spread across Latin America and to the United States, Africa, Australia and Asia.

  • In 2011, together with the FEMSA foundation, the Global Environmental Facility and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), TNC launched the Latin America Water Funds Partnership. We have:
    • Created more than 22 Water Funds across Latin America and the Caribbean
    • Worked to conserve more than 40 million acres of upstream ecosystems
    • Leveraged more than $120 million for green infrastructure investments
    • Positively impacted the lives of more than 70 million people who have begun to receive benefits


green pipe ecuador
Salve Paccha auquaduct Above, The Salve Paccha Aquaduct transports water from Cayambe Coca to Quito; photographed in the paramos landscape at the foot of Ecuador's Andean range. Paramos are high altitude wetlands that purify and regulate water flowing into Ecuador's largest cities. © 2007 Bridget Besaw

The Quito Water Fund, also known as FONAG, protects watersheds supplying the capital’s 2 million people with 80 percent of their freshwater. Though the Conservancy invested a mere $20,000 when the project began in 2000, monthly contributions from Quito’s water and electric companies now produce nearly $1 million each year in disbursements for conservation projects in the watersheds that supply the city. FONAG has served as a model for other water fund projects the Conservancy is establishing across the region.

school kids water ecuador
Learning about water Above, school children learn about restoration and protection efforts of the Río San Pedro and Quito's watershed at Parque Ecológico Cachaco in Amaguaña. © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy galvanizes actions among governments, policymakers, corporations, communities and the general public to ensure the adoption of sustainable development models.

To expand and strengthen Water Funds across Latin America, we work through four main pillars:

  • Science and innovation: Maximizing watershed conservation’s efficiency and impact
  • Public policies and corporate practices: Influencing public policies and corporate practices towards a sustainable management of the water cycle
  • Knowledge management and capacity development: Systematizing experiences to transform them into knowledge that is later disseminated
  • Communication: Promoting dialogue and interaction among main stakeholders and fostering a water conservation and integral management culture

The Nature Conservancy protects and restores upstream forests that clean and maintain steady flows of water for downstream users.

Watch our video "Nature Sustains our Fresh Water" to learn more about our work in Ecuador.


Nature Sustains Water Katherine Humanante opened her restaurant, Sadhana, in September 2012, in Puerto López, Ecuador.