Protecting Suriname’s Wealth of Water

Editor's note: This week, the world’s leading freshwater experts are gathering in Stockholm for World Water Week, an international conference dedicated to discussing potential solutions for some of our biggest environmental challenges. Today on Human Nature, CI’s Rebecca Field spotlights one region often overlooked for its global significance: the Guiana Shield.

This past spring, CI’s visual storytelling team traveled to the Guiana Shield, a tropical wilderness spanning six countries in South America. This region contains about 25 percent of the planet’s remaining intact forest and produces as much as 10 to 15 percent of the world’s fresh water.

Our trip, made possible through the Visual Storytelling Alliance, a partnership between CI and Sony, included stops in both Suriname and Guyana. Throughout the expedition, we visited and filmed several innovative new projects that are pursuing green development in the region, from community-based ecotourism development to ecosystem services mapping.

While flying in small planes throughout Suriname, all I could see below us was forest and fresh water. In a country where more than 90% of the land is covered by pristine rainforest, Suriname’s watersheds and forests are incredibly vital to not only the well-being of its people, but also to the world at large.


Because of Suriname’s wealth of natural assets, the country’s people are looking at ways to profit from this “natural capital” — particularly their vast amount of fresh water. As water scarcity continues to grow around the world —and the global population is predicted to exceed 9 billion people by 2050 — Suriname’s water could become even more valuable in the future.

In collaboration with CI, Suriname is looking at ways to sell some of its water to other countries facing water scarcity. New technologies, such as giant floating bladder-like vessels that transport fresh water to places that need it, could make this a reality.

By creating a freshwater market, indigenous communities living in the forest would be compensated for protecting the resource, while the country as a whole could see an economic boom.

But as John Goedschalk, CI-Suriname’s executive director, says in our film below, “This will only work if we protect the rainforests and watersheds that make it. If we don’t — if we deplete and pollute — we in Suriname and the rest of the world will have one less major water resource. And in a world of 9 billion people, we’re gonna need every drop we can get.”

Rebecca Field is CI’s video production manager.