Conserving water in the Sierra: eco-hydrological and social analysis to strengthen the strategies of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Water Fund

Project: Research project

Project Details


In contexts of great social inequality, one of the contemporary challenges of environmental conservation is how to address rapid ecological change through inclusive and participatory governance processes. Hence the recent call from various agencies to redefine new governance strategies for conservation (IUCN, 2014). This proposal seeks to contribute to the strengthening of the Santa Marta and Cienaga Water Fund (FASNM) whose mission is to consolidate itself "as a platform for collective action that operates as a governance agreement for the protection of natural water sources" (FASNM, 2019). This commitment is in line with the objectives of sustainable development (ODS) that seek to consolidate a vision of sustainable development that includes, in addition to the economic dimension, the social, environmental and prosperity dimensions that meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. However, the IPBES report on land resource degradation (IPBES, 2018) emphasizes that the achievement of the ODS will not be possible without effectively addressing the increasing degradation of land and water resources, on which nature's contributions to people are based. In this regard, the four water security challenges to which the Fund intends to contribute are: strengthening water governance and resilience to climate change, leading nature conservation actions that generate social well-being and economic returns, influencing public policies at various scales, and empowering citizens to adopt better practices that balance water use and preservation.
The Water Fund has many challenges at the institutional level and in the knowledge of the socio-environmental processes it aims to impact. In order to generate knowledge about some of these processes for about a year, professors from the Rosario, Javeriana, and Andes Universities, from different disciplines: Engineering, Anthropology, Biology, History and Geography, have been meeting with the ProSierra Nevada de Santa Marta Foundation (operator of the Fund), to define lines of academic research that will expand knowledge on climate, land cover, land use, geomorphology, population histories, social assessments of ecosystem contributions, forms of local environmental management, physical-chemical characterization of the water system of the basins, assessment of supply, demand and water quality, among others. In these meetings, priority is given to defining a line of eco-hydrological and social characterization of the basins of influence of the Fund, since it does not have the necessary information to be able to better direct its intervention strategies.

Key findings

The results, the scientific and social impact of this project, are framed in the creation of new knowledge about specific socio-environmental variables and processes and in the way this knowledge is relevant to configure water management strategies. The variables and processes to be analysed are: vegetation coverage of the five river basins, description of land use and changes over time (last 30 years); water characterization (quantity and temporal dynamics of water) and measurements of physical and chemical parameters of water systems, quantity, type of population, its main characteristics and forms of settlement, socio-environmental assessments of ecosystem contributions and identification of instruments and mechanisms for local participation in environmental planning; finally, an analysis of future scenarios that integrates biophysical and socio-economic characteristics. Another axis of the academic and social impacts of this project arises from the inclusion of diverse knowledge, including that of local people, to evaluate the specific strategies that are being used or could be used for conservation (which include the promotion of conservation agreements, isolation for forest protection and passive and assisted restoration, and water protection strategies), to promote social innovation, the custody of biophysical and social processes around water and finally the definition of governance schemes with science and transparency.
Effective start/end date3/1/207/1/21

Main Funding Source

  • Internal