Protecting critical watersheds through scientific evidence, cross-sectoral collaboration and community action

Tony Nello, IUCN
Published: 15 October 2020
Last edited: 05 November 2020
remove_red_eye 1469 Views


Agua Tica is Costa Rica's first water fund, contributing to the protection of water sources in the Rio Grande and Virilla river basins which supply water to the Greater Metropolitan Area of San Jose. Water sources of the region are under severe pressure due to high population growth, lack of land use planning, and development. The fund identifies conservation needs through scientific methodologists, then creates public-private partnerships to provide technical expertise and funding, and finally invests resources in conservation activities in the upper and middle catchments in order to ensure long term water security in the urban area.


Central America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Tropical evergreen forest
Cities and infrastructure
Ecosystem services
Land management
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Watershed management
Land and Forest degradation
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company
Direct engagement with associations
Indirect through financial institutions


San José, San José, Costa Rica


  • 1.9 million beneficiaries, 164 000 ha under influence of the project, 603 000 m3 water resupplied to nature per year, 607 ha under forest protection and regeneration.
  • Robust monitoring process in field activities like water quality monitoring, isotopes monitoring, soil monitoring and hydroclimatology monitoring programs in alliance with the Stable Isotopes Laboratory.
  • Contributing to the national policy throughout the active participation in the  RIOS Limpios National Strategy developed by the Ministry of Environment.
  • Through the LandScale project, we are reinforcing the Agua Tica's impact monitoring tools to achieve sustainable integrated landscape management in the Agua Tica's area of influence, integrating environmental, social and economic metrics to reach the Agua Tica´s water security goals.

Contributed by

matthew_38962's picture

Matthew Koehorst Greenpop, IUCN Urban Alliance

Other contributors