Of all the water on Earth, just 2.5% is fresh water, and most of that is locked up in ice or deep underground. Rivers and lakes hold only a tiny fraction – but it’s this water that farming, industry, seven billion human beings and all life on land depend on.
And freshwater environments are home to around 1 in 10 known animals – from dragonflies to ducks to dolphins, and around half of all fish species.
We’re striving to protect and revive the rivers and wetlands that sustain people and nature, and ensure there’s enough water for all of us.
'Why does it matter? Fish aren't the only species that depend on freshwater. The pollution, dams and shortages that push them to the brink put people and businesses at risk, too.'
Freshwater Practice Leader
Today, nearly two billion people live in areas at risk from severe water scarcity, while two-thirds of the world’s population face water shortages for at least one month each year. Growing populations, increasing consumption and climate change will only make the problem worse.
More than ever, we need healthy freshwater environments.
But, more than ever, they are under threat as thirsty crops suck up water, industrial pollution and sewage leaks into rivers, and natural habitats are built over.
Since 1900, we’ve destroyed two-thirds of all natural wetlands, while dams and infrastructure developments have fragmented our river systems. In less than half a century, numbers of freshwater animals have fallen by more than three-quarters.
Almost half the world's population will face severe water scarcity by 2030 without urgent action
A thirst for change
Businesses are increasingly moving to sustainable water practices. For example, nearly 150 of the world’s largest companies are now using WWF’s Water Risk Filter to assess their water risks and, crucially, take action in response.
Governments too have made impressive commitments to managing water resources, improving water quality, and protecting and restoring wetlands, as well as ensuring everyone has access to safe drinking water.
By taking better care of our freshwater habitats – from restoring wetlands, to planting trees in water catchments, to reconnecting rivers with their floodplains – we can reduce the risks of flooding and water shortages, and improve human health.
And our watery wildlife will benefit too.
What we're doing
Ultimately, though, what’s needed is a transformation in the way water is managed across whole river basins – both the river and the land that drains water into it. We need businesses to take collective responsibility for shared water resources (we call this water stewardship), finance institutions to invest in sustainable water projects, and governments to protect freshwater habitats and ensure everyone’s right to enough clean water.
Only by working together can we look after this most vital shared resource.
Latest on Freshwater
Toxic mercury poisoning the Amazon
WWF report highlights dangers posed by mercury to people and nature across the Amazon river basin
Historic day on the Haringvliet as dam gates opened to reconnect Rhine to the sea
Migratory fish will be able to swim from sea to spawning grounds for first time in 47 years
More fish in Lake Malawi at risk of extinction
Updated IUCN Red List of threatened species released ahead of world's largest biodiversity ...