The Nature Conservancy and Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment announce new three-year partnership to address water scarcity through markets and incentives

Srinakarin Dam via Adobe Stock

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford have joined forces in a new partnership to understand how water markets and incentives can help communities better manage scarce water resources, for both security of supply as well as conservation benefits.


This initiative responds to the growing recognition that sustainable water management is an essential component in the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. This collaboration will bring together one of the world's largest environmental organisations with the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research of the Smith School at the University of Oxford.

The TNC-Oxford Water Partnership will work at the intersection of science and strategy to advance water security solutions. The partnership will focus on impact-driven research to develop, test and evaluate market-based approaches to deliver outcomes for people and nature. The programme of work will leverage innovations in governance, finance and information technology to explore the scalability of water markets and related strategies.

Giulio Boccaletti, TNC's Director of Global Water and Chief Strategy Officer, said: "Oxford is renowned for world class research with a commitment to impact. This partnership will enable us to build on and scale TNC's work around the world to deliver measurable outcomes for the water security of communities and ecosystems."

Professor Gordon Clark, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, said: "Partnering with The Nature Conservancy has the potential to push the frontiers of our research at the interface of water and the economy and translate that into strategy and action. I am confident that our collaboration will greatly improve our ability to develop solutions to this pressing global challenge."

The first three years of the partnership will focus on three areas:

Prioritisation

The partners will build a set of indicators to help identify geographic priorities for market-based approaches. This will draw on data regarding the status and trends of water stress, conservation value, and institutional conditions needed to implement incentive-based tools and the associated financing and partnerships.

Platforms and Pathways

The partners will assess and evaluate interventions — from water markets to sustainable agricultural practices — to address water scarcity risk and determine which strategies may be most effective for specific geographies or socio-economic settings. This analysis seeks to shift from ad hoc projects to address water scarcity toward portfolios and pathways that improve outcomes for people and the environment.

Performance

Drawing on advances in impact evaluation, the partners will develop a framework for measuring returns on investment and the scalability of different approaches across a network of flagship sites. This framework can be applied to TNC's and other water management projects around the world, and will build confidence for partners, funders and potential investors.