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Waterways: Our Impacts

When logging roads are built and trees are felled, soils can erode into nearby waterways. Similarly, runoff from farms (including fertilizer and manure) can pollute local water sources and create dead zones in larger bodies of water hundreds of miles away. But streamside buffer zones, where trees and other vegetation are planted or left to grow in their natural state, can reduce pollution and runoff, protect water quality, provide shade for temperature control and help conserve aquatic biodiversity.

Sustainable farms, forestry operations and tourism businesses not only manage buffer zones on their property but also treat wastewater and implement water conservation practices and other safeguards -- proving that clean, healthy waterways can coexist with economically viable working landscapes.

Certified Farms Minimize Erosion and Safeguard Waterways

Water Protection

  • A 2012 study of cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire showed that certified farms implemented more water-protection measures than noncertified farms. When the streams that flow through these farms were examined for signs of erosion, certified farms performed consistently better than their noncertified counterparts.
  • In Colombia, Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms scored significantly higher than noncertified farms on a stream-health index1, demonstrating higher levels of dissolved oxygen and larger numbers of sensitive macroinvertibrates such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies -- species whose presence indicates ecosystem health.

Sustainable Tourism Businesses Conserve and Protect Water

  • In Costa Rica’s Sarapiquí region, lodges that work with the Rainforest Alliance have conserved water and avoided waterway contamination by installing gauges to measure water consumption, switching to biodegradable, unscented soaps and/or using anaerobic digesters to eliminate runoff into rivers.
  • A separate study found that 71 percent of the Latin American hotels surveyed decreased their water consumption after implementing the conservation practices that the Rainforest Alliance recommended.

The Environmental Benefits of Our Work:

  1. David Hughell and Deanna Newsom, Impacts of Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee farms in Colombia, 2013.


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