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RIOS Brochure

Learn more about RIOS: Download the Brochure

Developing RIOS

NatCap scientists designed RIOS in close collaboration with the Latin American Water Funds Partnership. We drew from water fund practitioners to create a tool that is widely applicable and practical to those managing investments in natural infrastructure.

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Resource Investment Optimization System

RIOS watershed

RIOS is a free and open source software tool that supports the design of cost-effective investments in watershed services.

RIOS provides a standardized, science-based approach to watershed management in contexts throughout the world. It combines biophysical, social, and economic data to help users identify the best locations for protection and restoration activities in order to maximize the ecological return on investment, within the bounds of what is socially and politically feasible.

Generalized Tool, Flexible Approach

RIOS was developed through an extensive stakeholder engagement process, including input from more than 11 water funds (watershed investment programs) across Latin America. The tool has been tested in diverse ecological, social and political contexts. Early applications in the Cauca Valley of Colombia resulted in RIOS-designed watershed investments up to six times more effective than typical investment approaches. RIOS enables watershed investors to use a replicable, transparent, and stakeholder-driven approach to evaluate projects within a region or between regions, making it easier to track the places where their investments are most needed and most effective.

RIOS watershed

Questions RIOS can answer:

  • Which set of watershed investments (in which activities, and where) will yield the greatest returns towards multiple objectives?
  • What change in ecosystem services can I expect from these investments?
  • How do the benefits of these investments compare to what would have been achieved under an alternate investment strategy?


New Software Promotes Nature's Delivery of Clean Water
Stanford News Service - June 14th, 2013
by Elizabeth Rauer

Demand for freshwater is growing, and climate change threatens its supply. A new, free software tool, the Resource Investment Optimization System (RIOS), could be part of the solution. Using the RIOS approach in Colombia, for example, has improved the return on investment by up to 600 percent over previous approaches to watershed investment.

RIOS, una nueva herramienta para optimizar la inversión de los Fondos de Agua
Fondos de Agua - June 13th, 2013

Los representantes de la sociedad civil, el sector privado y público, así como la comunidad científica, participó en un foro de alto nivel en las instalaciones del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) para la presentación de RIOS, una herramienta de software abierta y gratuita que permite diseñar inversiones costo-efectivas en beneficio de las cuencas hidrográficas.

Standardized Science for Secure Water
Science Chronicles August 6th, 2012
by Heather Tallis and Adrian Vogl

The rapid expansion of water funds in latitudes south has presented some challenges for The Nature Conservancy and its partners, which are trying to make the most of a potentially great tool for bringing nature's value into the real economy.

Learn More

Alianza Latino Americana de fondos de agua

FEMSA Foundation

Global Environment Facility

Inter-American Development Bank

RIOS Launch Fact Sheet

TNC: Latin American Water Funds Partnership

Water Funds Prioritization Guidance


Adrian Vogl, Ph.D.
Ecosystem Service Analyst