Watersheds and Cities

Integrated watershed management through social participation and long-term vision

The Project

Watersheds and Cities is a project incubation and acceleration model that has operated for more than two decades to promote the protection and recovery of watersheds that supply water to important cities in Mexico. The project has had the financial and institutional support of the Water Program of the Gonzalo Río Arronte Foundation since 2004 and will continue with this essential support in its new phase, which will be developed between 2022 and 2025.

  • Mapa de ubicación de proyectos de Cuencas y Ciudades

    Watershed and Cities project locations map

  • Jardín de cosecha de agua de lluvia

    Rainwater harvesting garden

  • Evento de comunicación con escuelas primarias

    Communication event with elementary schools


Rapid population growth in Mexico's urban centers leads to a continuous increase in water demand. Along with this dynamic, we have witnessed the accelerated deterioration of ecosystems that provide hydro-environmental services (HES), resulting in a decrease in water quality, poor water supply, and the chronic disconnection between water catchment and infiltration areas and urban areas that benefit from hydrological services.

Against this backdrop, since 2001, Watersheds and Cities has been supporting the development of institutional coordination processes to advance watershed and water management in priority regions, the establishment of pilot models for the conservation of ecosystems and landscapes under a watershed approach, and the design and implementation of long-term financial mechanisms.

In each selected watershed, FMCN establishes an alliance with a local partner (CSO) that takes the lead in improving watershed management through planning, institutional collaboration, and concurrence of efforts and resources.

The lines of work that guide the actions of Watersheds and Cities are:

  1. Increase nature-based solutions coverage in watersheds and other urban and suburban areas.
  2. Strengthen the capacities of key actors and decision-makers in the municipalities.
  3. Improve social participation and inter-institutional coordination to implement planning instruments.
  4. Catalyze public and private investments to scale up conservation and climate change adaptation measures.
  5. Follow-up on a learning community for knowledge management.

"Watersheds and Cities: 20 years for the integrated management of watersheds in Mexico". Learn about the contributions and scope of the project in the framework of its twentieth anniversary.



The initiatives that make up Watersheds and Cities have impacted around 3.8 million hectares. The partners have conducted diagnoses, designed integrated watershed management action plans, and deployed communication and awareness campaigns to achieve the active participation of the different sectors and stakeholders. Conservation, restoration, and productive reconversion actions have been established on more than 130,000 hectares; of this area, compensation schemes have provided hydro-environmental services on more than 35,000 hectares.

The field deployment of the projects has opened up spaces for the direct participation of the communities in the definition of objectives, the development of activities, and other participatory processes for managing natural resources. Local initiatives have directly benefited more than 16,000 families in 192 communities through their incorporation into sustainable, productive projects, the installation of various eco-technologies, such as biodigesters, water-saving toilets and wood-saving stoves, and 470 rainwater harvesting systems in areas with water shortages or wells contaminated by heavy metals.

During the first half of 2022, Gonzalo Río Arronte, Foundation (Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte, I.A.P)., the project's leading donor, approved and formalized the fifth stage of Watersheds and Cities. This will be implemented in 10 regions of Mexico from 2022 to 2025.

The new phase, Watersheds and Cities V: Spaces for adaptation to climate change, aims to scale up the achievements and lessons learned from previous phases. It will incorporate climate change vulnerability and ecosystem-based adaptation criteria to contribute to reducing water stress through the implementation of ecotechnologies, nature-based solutions (NBS), the integration of green and gray infrastructure leveraging private and public investments, and strengthening the technical, institutional, and financial capacities of key local stakeholders.

In addition, together with local partners, Watersheds and Cities refined the subprojects and their monitoring and evaluation system, which began on July 2, 2022.

Read the external evaluation of the project.

Learn more about the project:


The main ally of Watersheds and Cities is Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte, I.A.P.

In addition, we have the support of:

  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Cervecería de Colima, S.A.
  • Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V.