This issue brief describes analyses by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in support of emerging payments for watershed services (PWS) programs in two major watersheds in Maine and North Carolina and insights gleaned from work in progress. The three pilot initiatives discussed represent different approaches to establishing PWS programs that protect forests and other green infrastructure elements.

Executive Summary


  • In the Neuse River Basin in North Carolina, WRI is working with partners to identify beneficiaries and their water-related dependencies. We learned that clear documentation of the risks that beneficiaries face from water pollution, drought, and watershed degradation will help jump-start their participation in emerging PWS programs.
  • In the Sebago Lake Watershed in Maine, WRI is finalizing a methodology for “green-gray” analysis that will provide beneficiaries a way to identify cost-effective green infrastructure solutions to water infrastructure demands of the 21st century. Green infrastructure comprises all natural, seminatural and artificial networks of multifunctional ecological systems within, around, and between urban areas at all spatial scales. We learned that, to convince public investment managers to invest in green rather than gray, it is important to make the financial and business case using the same basic methodologies that are used for calculating the costs and benefits of conventional gray approaches.
  • WRI is also working to develop PWS programs that help the city of Raleigh meet streetscape, conservation development, tree conservation, storm water management, and water quality goals contained in its Unified Development Ordinance in a least cost manner. We learned that market-based solutions like PWS can play a large role in land-use planning processes and that these processes may represent a large untapped demand driver for PWS programs throughout the South.