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Breaking barriers for Natural Infrastructure in Peru

The Natural Infrastructure for Water Security (NIWS) project aims to scale up investments in natural infrastructure in Peru to safeguard water supplies and increase climate resilience. It is funded and promoted by the United States Agency for International Development and the Government of Canada.

Peruvians are no strangers to climate-related water insecurity. National states of emergency declared in recent years due to drought, fires, floods, and landslides have become increasingly frequent, costing billions of dollars in damages and lost earnings—and impacting millions of lives. During the last 50 years, the country has lost more than half of its glaciers, historically a key source of water.

Natural infrastructure, like forests and wetlands, increase resilience of both upstream communities and downstream water users to these risks. In the last 10 years, Peruvian policymakers across multiple sectors have recognized the opportunity to invest in nature as an asset for managing water risks and have implemented a series of policy reforms to enable a new approach for nature-based solutions for water in Peru.

The Natural Infrastructure for Water Security (NIWS) project, is working to scale-up efforts to protect and restore natural water infrastructure in Peru, while addressing gender gaps that are incompatible with a water- and climate-secure future.

By pushing Peru to move beyond concrete-and-steel water infrastructure projects and embrace an expansive new vision of 21st century water infrastructure that prioritizes protection of vulnerable natural ecosystems through partnerships with upstream, rural communities, NIWS is advocating a holistic approach to managing water risks in an era of increasing variability.

Forest Trends leads implementation of NIWS in consortium with our partners CONDESAN, the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA), EcoDecisión, and researchers from Imperial College London.

Slated to run until 2023, the project has already helped generate and sustain momentum for the Government of Peru’s recent water policy advances to fully mainstream “natural infrastructure” and ensure that the committed funds result in demonstrated improvements to water and climate risk resilience. Building upon Peru’s role as the first Latin American country to officially incorporate gender into its climate action programming, NIWS has helped further elevate women’s leadership roles in the water sector by facilitating professional forums and networking events. [Keep Reading] [NIWS website in Spanish]

Our Approach

1) Improve the Enabling Environment for Natural Infrastructure Adoption

We are increasing political and public awareness on the importance of natural infrastructure for secure water supplies and resilience to increasing climate extremes. We work closely with planners and policymakers to incorporate natural water infrastructure into planning instruments and address policy bottlenecks to scale effective natural infrastructure investments.

2) Strengthen Information Management for Decision-Making on Natural Infrastructure

We work with universities, technical institutions, and decision-makers to generate the social, economic, ecological, and water resource information needed to decide where and when to invest in natural infrastructure and how to incorporate it into existing planning and management processes. We also strengthen monitoring efforts that accompany natural infrastructure interventions, to build a stronger evidence base on the impacts natural infrastructure can have on water management and local communities.

3) Design, Finance, and Implement Natural Infrastructure Projects

We develop portfolios of investments in natural water infrastructure from a range of public and private sources, including Peru’s national disaster reconstruction program, regional and local governments, water utilities, and private companies. In doing so, we aim to generate new experience and skills across the water sector and to advance the tools and mechanisms available to effectively and equitably invest in water natural infrastructure.

4) Address Gender Gaps in Water and Natural Infrastructure Management

We are serious about reducing gender gaps across all areas of our work. We partner with leading authorities in the water, environmental, and women’s empowerment sectors in Peru to institutionalize a gender approach in water management and natural infrastructure investments. We also work directly with women leaders in local organizations and public authorities to highlight and strengthen their skills as leaders in the sector.

Key Results

  • Journey Towards Water Security summarizes the key results to date for the NIWS project (as of September 2021)
  • Facilitated the approval and implementation of the first watershed investment by SEDAPAL, Lima’s water utility
  • Built a portfolio of over $370 million in NI investments in development: over 80 projects developed with over 240 communities in 14 Peruvian regions.
  • Increased credibility and clarity for decision-makers regarding the water benefits of natural infrastructure interventions through scientific research, publication in prestigious peer reviewed journals, and accessibly sharing this with decision-makers.
  • Strengthened capacities of more than 5,000 professionals from national and subnational governments, water companies and civil society to design, monitor and manage natural infrastructure projects
  • Developed a suite of over 30 innovative tools to guide the identification, design, and management of effective, equitable, and sustainable interventions in natural infrastructure. Over 600 people from diverse public and private institutions report using information disseminated by the NIWS project, especially HIRO and CUBHIC.
  • Strengthened institutions and leaders to address gender gaps in water management by supporting decision-makers to systematize and quantify information on gender gaps. A few highlights include, SUNASS approving the first Gender Equality Policy in the Peruvian water sector, 138 women leaders being recognized and strengthened in water management, and organizing women to contribute to climate change action.
  • Developed and secured regulatory changes that accelerate investments in natural infrastructure and strengthen multi-sectoral water management, working closely with our partners MINAM, ANA, SUNASS, and water companies.
    Documented peat extraction for commercial purposes, which informed MINAM’s  approval of a new Supreme Decree for the protection of wetlands.

Key Resources

Key resources for practitioners in Spanish:


Support and Funding

The Natural Infrastructure for Water Security (NIWS) project is funded by USAID and the Government of Canada. It is implemented by Forest Trends with our consortium partners CONDESAN, the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA), EcoDecision, and experts from Imperial College London.



This web page was made possible through support provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Government of Canada.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the Government of Canada.