© James Suter / Black Bean Productions / WWF-US


Water is our most precious resource. We can't live without it. There's no substitute for it. And there's only so much of it to go round.

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.'

Stuart Orr
Freshwater Practice Leader

© Martin Harvey / WWF

Water worries

Water scarcity – not having enough to meet demand – is one of the biggest challenges we face.

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

River runs through largest tropical National Park in the world in Colombia

© Cesar David Martinez

A thirst for change

There is enough water for everyone if we all work together.

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.
WWF works with farmers in rural Kenya to secure water for their households and their crops.

© WWF / Simon Rawles

What we're doing

From the Amazon to the Zambezi, we are implementing freshwater initiatives in more than 50 countries – working with communities, partners, companies and governments to safeguard iconic species like sturgeon and river dolphins, restore wetlands and keep rivers free flowing, increase protected areas, and build resilience to climate change.

Ultimately, though, what’s needed is a transformation in the way rivers are valued - so that the diverse benefits they provide to people and nature are no longer overlooked and undervalued but taken into account by decision-makers.
We need businesses to take collective responsibility for shared water resources (we call this water stewardship and have been a driving force behind this approach for a decade), finance institutions to invest in sustainable water projects (we are promoting innovative bankable solutions to help redirect financial flows), 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.

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