Top 5 questions about water

1. How bad is the global water crisis?

  • 1.1 billion people lack access to water and 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation; most of these populations are in developing countries
  • Over 50% of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the last century alone
  • Most of the world’s largest rivers are losing their connection to the sea and nearly a quarter of those left risk being disconnected in the next 15 years
  • Only one-third of the world’s 177 large rivers (1,000km and longer) remain free-flowing, unimpeded by dams or other barriers
  • There has been more than a 50% decline in freshwater species populations over the last 30 years, making species loss in freshwater ecosystems faster than any other biome

2. Where is the water crisis the most serious?

Most developing countries face serious problems. In Africa, almost half of the population suffers from one of the six major water-related diseases, such as diarrhoea, which kills millions of children worldwide millions every year.

But many developed nations such as Spain and Australia are also having water problems due to pollution, overuse or mismanagement.

3. What are some of the major factors contributing to the water crisis?

Unchecked dam building and excessive irrigation are among the main reasons. On average, agriculture uses up to 70% of all water diverted from river basins.

Dams have already fragmented 60% of major rivers worldwide and displaced up to 80 million people.

Hundreds of dams are under construction worldwide and even more are being planned.

4. Ok, this is a lot of bad news, but is there anything we can do to fix the problem?

Yes, there's still a lot we can do. If we work hard to conserve our wetlands and rivers - the source of our drinking water - there's hope for a brighter future.

Important actions include:
  • saving water currently wasted in irrigation
  • fixing leaking pipes
  • improving existing infrastructure
  • stopping the construction of massive dams
Another important step is to work with local communities to help them value and defend their water resources by:
  • establishing river basin committees to manage shared resources where rivers cross borders
  • channelling aid to the countries in greatest need

5. What is WWF doing?

In the last eight years, WWF has helped conserve up to 92 million hectares of wetlands critical to water, food and aquatic life throughout the world.

WWF is pioneering integrated river basin management (IRBM) or conserving nature “from source to sea.” along the Yangtze and Danube rivers. This means taking the whole river basin into account and involving stakeholders from countries who share a river basin.

WWF brings together local and national government officials to suport river management groups, such as the Lake Chad River Basin Commission for the benefit of five African countries.

WWF assists local and indigenous communities in building their capacity to establish watershed management projects. In South Africa, for example, the Working for Wetlands programme employs thousands of people to rehabilitate the country's remaining wetlands.

Other water-saving projects are being developed to improve the way we grow cotton, sugar and rice - three of the world’s thirstiest crops. For more information, visit our freshwater section.

Know more

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

» Read more

The Millennium Development Goals aim to halve the proportion of people without access to drinking water and sanitation services by 2015.
» Read more

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