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Protecting Future Water Supplies with Land Conservation

For large portions of the world, land use change from growing populations and climate change could generate an imbalance between water demand and available supply. Understanding and predicting these imbalances will help areas stay resilient against environmental crisis.

In an effort to optimize land conservation investments, RTI International recently assessed the impacts of climate and land use change on future water supply and determined how targeted natural land conservation could add resiliency in the watershed. Our study provides guidance on where land conservation investments may provide both the greatest monetary benefit and water supply protection under future conditions. 

We developed a spatial framework that is flexible and allows for localized and full watershed assessments, providing useful information for different objectives (local vs. regional planning). The result is a common platform to drive conservation actions and increase the resiliency of future water supplies. In our report, published September 2019, the framework was applied to the Catawba-Wateree Watershed in North and South Carolina, which includes 11 managed reservoirs that provide drinking water, power generation, and recreation opportunities for nearly two million people.

One of the most valuable things about the report will be its use as a "tool" for others to determine benefits on land areas they choose to assess.” – Vicki Taylor, Catawba Wateree Initiative

This project was funded by the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and in partnership with the Catawba-Wateree Water Management Group and its individual utility members, the U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities, and the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund.

Ms. Michele Eddy, the principle investigator, and Dr. George van Houtven, the lead economist, will present the final outcomes through a webinar hosted by WRF on Tuesday, November 26. Registration is now open.

The Final Report is also available through WRF’s website. Learn more about RTI’s Center for Water Resources at www.rti.org/water-management.