Jorge Leon Sarmiento

The Nature Conservancy | Latin America Water Funds Specialist

Session Organizer and Thematic Keynote Speaker

Jorge Leon Sarmiento

Jorge Leon, ecologist, works for the Latin American Water Funds Partnership. His research areas of interest include improving scientific knowledge to improve water security in metropolitan areas, expanding the monitoring network to identify the real impacts of natural infrastructure in improving the availability and quality of water, as well as, in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Keynote on "Quantifying the global co-benefits of source water protection"

Authors: Leah Bremer, Sylvia Wood, Justin Johnson, Nathan Karres, Emily Chapin, Kari Vigerstol, Bernhard Lehner, Andrea Erickson-Quiroz, Jonathan Higgins, Robin Abell, and Shiteng Kang. Presented by: Jorge Leon (contributor to the publication)

Cities around the world are increasingly investing in source water protection to improve water quality and reduce water treatment costs. Source water protection activities add up to good land stewardship, which can generate co-benefits in the areas of biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and for human health and well-being.  Analyzing the existing and potential source watersheds of 4,000 cities around the world, we find that activities such as habitat protection, restoration, and agricultural best management practices can make meaningful contributions toward global sustainability goals.  For example, looking at the global ceiling of potential, we find that source water protection activities could reduce the ecoregional extinction risk for as many 5,400 terrestrial species; enable up to 44 countries to meet protected area targets through protecting natural habitat outside designated protected areas; contribute up to 16% of the climate change mitigation potential needed in the year 2050 to keep the world on a trajectory to limit warming below 2 degrees Celsius; reduce the risk, via lost pollination services, of increased micronutrient deficiency for over 2 billion people; and reduce nutrient inputs to over a quarter of known coastal eutrophication zones worldwide.  While one in six cities may be able to pay for source water protection activities using water treatment savings alone, additional cities may find that source water protection becomes affordable by ‘stacking’ co-benefits.  We will discuss these findings and the ways in which actors whose concerns span different co-benefits can come together to enable good land stewardship across the world’s watersheds.

Conference Contribution