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Global Forest Watch Water Metadata Document

This document explains the underlying science and assumptions of natural infrastructure for water, describes data layers and information, documents data sources, and details the methodology used to generate watershed risk scores in Global Forest Watch Water. All data and maps are publicly available.

Executive Summary

Communities around the world face a growing water crisis. Surging water demand, aging water infrastructure, continued changes in land use, and increasingly extreme weather events drive water management costs higher. The need is growing for lower-cost means to secure ample and clean water. Natural infrastructure approaches—such as forest protection, watershed restoration, and sustainable management of landscapes—have a major role to play in confronting water crisis. As awareness grows on the linkage between the health of watersheds and their capacity to supply sufficient, clean water, watershed stakeholders— water utilities, business, government, and communities— face many challenges and a lack of information as they explore opportunities for integrating natural infrastructure approaches in managing their water resources.

To fill the gap, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has developed Global Forest Watch Water (GFW Water), a publicly available global interactive mapping tool and database that allow users to glean key information about using natural infrastructure to enhance water security. GFW Water aims to help downstream beneficiaries, financing and development institutions, and civil society and research groups apply natural infrastructure as a strategy to enhance water security and improve watershed management.

Anyone with internet access can now visualize critical watershed-related information and threats to watershed health, and screen for cost-effective, sustainable natural infrastructure solutions based on watershed characteristics and risk profiles. GFW Water provides spatial data sets, summary statistics, and watershed risk scores for 230 major watersheds around the globe. It also allows users to locate and delineate subwatersheds for analysis. GFW Water is a portal to resources for planning natural infrastructure initiatives, including publications, guidelines, decision-support frameworks, and case studies.

Finally, GFW Water scores each watershed’s ability to deliver critical ecosystem services based on its exposure to four key watershed risks: (1) recent forest loss; (2) historical forest loss; (3) erosion; and (4) fire. The risks are considered in the context of each watershed’s baseline water stress. The results show that watersheds around the world face different types of risks at varying degrees. Further assessment and appropriate management response are warranted for watersheds with high-risk scores.

This document explains the underlying science and assumptions of natural infrastructure for water, describes the data layers and information, documents data sources, and details the methodology used to generate watershed risk scores in GFW Water. All data and maps are publicly available.

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