Freshwater | WWF

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FRESHWATER

© Andrija Vrdoljak

Protecting freshwater sources is not only about nature – it has a profound impact on our lives and wellbeing.

WATER – WHY DO WE NEED IT??

We are made of water. Life on earth would be impossible
without it. Water is our most precious and fragile resource,
impossible to replace.

Of all the water on Earth, only 2.5% is fresh water, most of it locked up in ice or deep underground. A tiny fraction of what remains is held in our rivers and lakes. It is this water that supports our food production, businesses,
and more than 7 billion people.

Around half of all fish species in the world and one in ten of all known animals live in a freshwater environment – from the elusive olms and fragile dragonflies to white-tailed eagles and little terns.

Dams, hydropower, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and other hazardous practices critically endanger our freshwater ecosystems and pose a threat to people and business alike.

We’re striving to protect and revive rivers and wetlands
that sustain people and nature, and ensure there’s enough water for us all.

Did you know?

More than 2.500 small hydropower plants are planned across Adria.

© WWF

OVER TROUBLED WATERS

We’re now at a breaking point in our collective future. Our most vital resource – water – is under immense pressure, from pollution to river regulation and small hydro. Unsustainable development, overconsumption and the climate crisis will only make the problem worse.

Yet, since 1900, we’ve destroyed two-thirds of all natural wetlands and reduced the number of freshwater animals by more than three-quarters; dams and river infrastructure have fragmented our river systems, leaving only one-third of the world’s rivers free-flowing.

As climate change turns the extraordinary into the ordinary, we will need healthy freshwater environments more than ever.
The time for us to act is now!

Populations of freshwater species have shrunk by 83% since the 1970s.

© M. Romulić

WHAT WE’RE DOING

From the Alpine rivers in the north to the Valbona River in the south, we run freshwater conservation projects in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo*, and Albania – protecting iconic species like the sturgeon and sand martin, restoring wetlands and keeping rivers free-flowing. We’re also constantly pushing for better protection of freshwater habitats at national and international levels.

Ultimately, though, what’s needed is a transformation in the way water is managed across whole river basins – both the river and the land it drains its water into. We need businesses to take collective responsibility for shared water resources, financial institutions to invest in sustainable water projects, and governments to protect freshwater habitats and
defend everyone’s right to clean water.

Only by working together can we look after this
most vital shared resource.

Once numbering tens of thousands, only ten pairs of little terns still nest on the Drava River in Croatia.

© Goran Šafarek

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Support our initiatives and conservation work on freshwater issues to safeguard the world’s most precious natural resource. Share our successes, make small but meaningful changes, being mindful of your water consumption, reducing plastic waste, and standing up for freshwater resources in your area.

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