The Rural-Urban Connection
No matter how distant nature may seem from a city, the consequences of unsustainable development in surrounding rural areas are real. Take São Paulo, Brazil: with a population of over 12 million people, it’s the largest metropolis in the Western Hemisphere. As it grew, water consumption increased, placing too much demand on the rivers that flow into it.
Almost half of the city’s water comes from the Cantareira system, a web of waterways that traverse the Atlantic Forest, where jaguars, ocelots and at least 20,000 species of plants are found. About 90 percent of the forest— which slows, filters and stores water—has been cleared for agriculture, livestock grazing and urban expansion. Drought and erratic weather patterns are further stressing the system.
The Nature Conservancy is working with government officials, city dwellers, rural farmers and corporate partners to devise solutions, including implementing the São Paulo Water Fund conservation plan. Improved farming practices, forest restoration and other strategies outlined in the plan are making a difference. “Our job is to contribute to water security and climate resilience through nature,” says Samuel Barrêto, TNC’s water specialist in Brazil. “By raising awareness of the benefits of this approach and bringing science into public policy we are restoring the water supply for São Paulo and connecting native habitats for wildlife.”
Our job is to contribute to water security and climate resilience through nature.