Pieter van Dalen

Wageningen University, Netherlands

Supervisory team: Jeroen Vos and Art Dewulf

A key factor in the status of water security in Colombia is the state of the Páramos in the Andean mountains. Páramos are a collection of perennially humid Neotropical alpine ecosystems identified as hot spots for climate change. Water security is “the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability” (ESCAP, 2013). Yet water funds are precisely the mechanisms that ensure that water users compensate upstream communities for protecting forests, paramos, and other lands that safeguard water quality that supplies cities (The Nature Conservancy, 2018). These water funds not only protect water at its source, but they could also allow for improved water governance and concerted efforts by the various agencies that oversee water security. Nonetheless, there is a critique of the level of equality, participation, and democracy of water funds. It requires, therefore, a more thorough research into the power struggles within and the position of those who are negatively influenced by the existence of water funds.

ESCAP, U. (2013). Water security & the global water agenda: A UN-water analytical brief. United Nations University (UNU).

Colombia: Protecting Water at the Source. (2018, 1 july). The Nature Conservancy. Available at: https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/latin-america/colombia/stories-in-colombia/colombia-water/

On a global scale, investments in watershed conservation mechanisms have been growing rapidly for the last couple of decades. Water funds are such mechanisms and are referred to as Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). These mechanisms aim to protect or restore hydrological services by investing in natural infrastructure and for example water security. They do so by allowing downstream beneficiaries to pay for the capacity of upstream users to incentivize them to engage in nature conservation. However, there is growing competition and interdependence of all users in the upland concerning forest, land, and water resources. This competition potentially leads to conflict and inequality between different stakeholders due to an imbalance in resources.

The aim of this research is to gain more empirical evidence into how governance processes in the Rio Bogota watershed area are structured in relation to the interests and needs of the actors involved. In addition, the aim is to focus on the extent to which water funds are democratic mechanisms focused on participation and legitimacy, and improve the livelihoods of upstream users.