Forest-based solutions for clean surface water protection, biodiversity, bioeconomy and climate resilience

  • Project start:  September 2021
  • End of project: December 2025
  • Funding: LIFE programme project co-financed 55 % by the European Union.
  • Budget: 811.329 €.
  • Partnerts: Reserva de la biosfera de Urdaibai, UPV/EHU, BC3, Consorcio de Aguas de Busturialdea y Agencia EFE.

Life Urbaso aims to demonstrate that careful and appropriate planning of forest management in the catchment areas of drinking water catchments improves the quality and increases the quantity of water abstracted, both of which are essential for improving human health and adapting to the uncertainties of climate change.


  • To develop a technical guide for the delimitation of intervention zones necessary to protect water, including operational forest management guidelines for each of them.
  • To implement the guidelines developed around the water catchments of the Urdaibai Reserve in such a way that it is possible to demonstrate that they are useful for improving water quality. A reduction in the amount of DOC of 10% and in the sediment load of 25% is foreseen. As a consequence, the use of disinfection products and the amount of by-products, such as THMs, originating in the process would be reduced.
  • Demonstrate that changes in land use provide a continuous and sufficient quantity of water for human consumption. A 15% increase in water quantity is expected.
  • Demonstrate that fern control reduces the amount of PTA in drinking water.
  • Calculate economic incentives for the providers of the ecosystem services that will make these improvements possible, i.e. for the owners of the plots where the changes will be implemented.
  • Develop a contractual tool that can be used between forest owners and water providers for payment for ecosystem services.