© Andre Dib/WWF
Freshwater Initiatives

© Wild Wonders of Europe\/ WWF

The story of water is the most important story of all

Without it, there would be no life. It fuels our farms, sustains our rural communities and mega cities, and underpins our economies. But water does not come from a tap. Ultimately, people and nature rely on healthy rivers.


Our Initiatives

With our new global strategy and range of innovative initiatives, WWF’s Freshwater of our work is undergoing a paradigm shift. Our focus is on big wins – on securing
systemic and landscape level change. We are integrating our efforts with the other Practices and building broad coalitions of new and existing partners to pursue holistic
solutions for our river basins. 


Widespread habitat loss threatens the future of Asia-Pacific’s extraordinary bird migrations, with species under increasing pressure from Russia to New Zealand. The habitats necessary for bird migration also provide critical ecosystem services for people and nature. Through the first network of its kind, WWF and partners are protecting and restoring wetlands, monitoring iconic birds, building transformational corporate partnerships, and creating public awareness across Russia, China, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia, before expanding to Australia and New Zealand. Healthy wetlands will provide vital stepping stones for migratory birds and build climate resilience for communities.

Asian Flyways Initiative
© Tomas Hulik
Blue Heart of Africa

With demand for water and pressure on Africa’s rivers set to rise dramatically, WWF’s ground-breaking Africa-wide approach focuses on securing the high rainfall headwaters, which contribute disproportionately to the flow of Africa’s major rivers. Our goal is to catalyze new partnerships and transform the way communities, youth and decision makers value rivers to secure resilient water sources in the Blue Heart of Africa, improving food, energy and water security for the region. This ambitious initiative also aims to ensure that the rich natural resources of these rural, biodiverse areas, deliver long term benefits for local and global stewards of these critical landscapes.

Blue Heart of Africa
© Will Burrard-Lucas/WWF-US
Free Flowing Rivers

The world’s iconic free flowing rivers provide critical benefits to people and nature, but they are under threat from a wave of new dams. With its new coordinated global approach, WWF will use an unprecedented mix of science, technology, policy and public campaigns to keep these rivers free flowing. WWF will focus its efforts on 9 iconic river systems that are highly threatened by new dam development, contain high levels of freshwater biodiversity and provide diverse benefits for communities, before replicating success elsewhere. This will include: the Amazon, Balkans, Eastern Himalayas, Irrawaddy and Salween, Luangwa, Mekong, Okavango/KAZA, Pantanal, and Rufiji.

Free Flowing Rivers
© Hkun Lat / WWF-Australia

European rivers provide fond holiday memories and support the continent’s economies with water, food, transport and power. But only 40% are in a good ecological state due to dams, pollution, shipping and over-extraction. WWF is working across Europe – from Spain to the Caucasus – to protect the continent’s remaining free flowing rivers, restore floodplains and wetlands, and remove obsolete dams, while inspiring millions to defend the laws that protect their rivers, lakes and wetlands. With our partners, we are aiming for a paradigm shift in river management, which will bring back biodiversity and enhance climate resilience and water security.

Living European Rivers Initiative
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Peter Cairns / WWF
River Dolphins

River dolphins live in some of the world’s greatest rivers – Amazon, Ganges, Indus, Mekong, Irrawaddy, and Yangtze. But most species are in danger of extinction. WWF is the only conservation NGO working on all 5 species and our efforts have helped increase dolphin populations in the Indus and Mekong. However, the scale of the threats from new dams, pollution and bycatch requires a more ambitious approach. Launching the first global river dolphin strategy, WWF will generate political momentum, expand protected areas, transform business practices, and redirect investments into sustainable infrastructure.

River Dolphins Initiative
© François Xavier Pelletier/WWF

Sturgeon are the most endangered species group on earth. These gentle giants have been around since the age of the dinosaurs, but are now on the brink of extinction due to overfishing, a flourishing illegal caviar trade, habitat loss, and a wave of new hydropower dams. But we can still save sturgeon, and in the process revive rivers and control illegal wildlife trade in Russia, the Danube, Asia, and North America. WWF is the only conservation organization currently working to save sturgeon in a coordinated approach. And through an approach including wildlife trade, river planning and protection, illegal fishing prevention, and livelihoods, WWF is seeing success that can be replicated with greater support.

Sturgeon Initiative
© Shutterstock
Resilient Asian Deltas

Asia’s great deltas – Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra, Indus, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Pearl and Yangtze – are home to hundreds of millions of people, rich agricultural land, and industries that drive much of the global economy. But they are all sinking and shrinking because dams and sand mining have drastically reduced the flow of sediment, which is all that can keep the deltas above the rising seas. WWF’s initiative will build resilience through a multipronged approach, including redirecting billions of dollars into bankable water solutions in the river basins, pioneering effective sediment management and promoting system-wide renewable energy planning.

Resilient Asian Deltas Initiative
© Adam Oswell / WWF-Greater Mekong
Water Reserves

As water stress increases due to growing demand and poor governance, WWF is working with governments to transform water management by establishing water reserves. Water reserves ensure sufficient water for the environment, biodiversity and healthy functioning of each river, while also providing water for families, farms and firms. WWF’s initiative has already led to the historic creation of 300 water reserves in Mexico, safeguarding water supplies for 45 million people for 50 years as well as protecting the country’s last free flowing rivers. With development partners, WWF aims to replicate this success across Central and South America.

Water Reserves Initiative
© Thor Morales/WWF-Mexico