All cities bordering the Alps - and many even further away - rely on Alpine water for their drinking needs and hydroelectricity supply.
In fact, the Alps are the most important water reservoir in Europe, exposing them to strong interests from the outside. Water-usage is the part of the Alpine economy that is most strongly controlled by extra-Alpine forces.
As a result, rivers and streams throughout Alpine valleys have been dammed, straightened, and regulated. Riverbank areas have been converted to agricultural land or to urban areas, reducing their natural ability to regulate floods.
Today, only 10% of Alpine rivers are (at least partially) in a natural or near-natural condition. Even the few remaining pristine rivers, such as the Tagliamento in the Italian Alps, are threatened by further development. (Read more
Widespread river and stream diversion and the construction of large storage reservoirs destroy natural living spaces. Hydroelectric power plants constitute one of the most serious threats to natural river systems. (Read more
As if all this were not bad enough, streams are also polluted by agriculture, industry and household waste, not to mention acid rain.
The introduction of foreign fish species into many Alpine water bodies disturbs the highly specialized and endemic invertebrate fauna and the autochthonous fish population.