Protecting Xalapa’s Water: Sustainable Management of The Pixquiac River Watershed In Veracruz, Mexico, 2005–2015


In 2005, civic leaders in Xalapa, Mexico, sought to curb deforestation and unsustainable farming practices in the nearby Pixquiac watershed that threatened the quality and availability of water in their city. Xalapa’s 400,000 residents relied on the watershed—a 10,727-hectare area that channeled water into the Pixquiac River—to provide almost 40% of their water supply. SENDAS, a small nongovernmental organization, created a program that aimed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Pixquiac watershed by paying landowners to conserve and restore the watershed’s forests. The program also helped farmers adopt more-sustainable management practices and increase their incomes. By building partnerships with the municipal water commission, the state government, the National Forestry Commission, and Mexico’s largest environmental foundation, SENDAS established a sustainable financing mechanism for the program. The organization also assembled a management committee with broad representation to ensure that funds were distributed appropriately and transparently. By 2015, environmental leaders were hoping to replicate SENDAS’s success in other important watersheds across Veracruz state.

Blair Cameron drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Xalapa, Mexico, in March and April, 2015. Case published January 2016.

sustainable management
environmental services
payments for environmental services
Focus Area(s)
Natural Resources
Critical Tasks
Agricultural intensification
Common pool resources & public goods
Conserving forests
Resource protection & enforcement
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Blair Cameron