The city of Bogotá, Colombia, faces an array of complex water challenges. Crumbling infrastructure, water contamination, and climate change are making it more and more difficult for the city to secure drinkable water for its population of over 7 million people.

New research points to a powerful solution that can improve water security, save money, and potentially provide other social benefits. And the solution is not far off: it lies within the vibrant páramos (or high altitude-grasslands) surrounding the city.

This report explores how investments in natural infrastructure can generate significant economic savings for Bogotá’s water utility through reduced operational costs due to improved sediment and nitrogen control. These savings not only benefit the water utility, but would diversify Bogotá’s portfolio of water sources and reduce the need for reservoir expansion, improving water security for the city.

This report was written with Conservation International Colombia and Bogotá's water utility, Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá.

Key Findings:

  • Targeted investments in sustainable silvopastoral systems and ecosystem restoration on 2,460 hectares (ha) — representing 2% of the upper basin of the Bogotá River — would require US$5.3 million and generate undiscounted benefits of $44.6 million over 30 years.
  • Strategic water-related investments in the upper basin of the Bogotá River can provide the city with a more diversified portfolio of water sources while also relieving pressures for reservoir expansion in the páramos.
  • Securing a healthy watershed through targeted natural infrastructure investments could help Bogota’s water utility reduce operational costs at Tibitoc, one of its water treatment plants.
  • Cost savings associated with the investment portfolio come from both sediment and nitrogen control, and are associated with reductions in energy use, chemical products, and depreciation costs.


Thumbnail image by Conservation International/Diego Restrepo-Zambrano