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Why our rivers and wetlands are so important

Well, where do we start? Rivers, lakes, wetlands and other freshwater environments supply water that we need for drinking, growing food and other crops, producing energy and manufacturing all sorts of products. Rivers also act as transport routes and they provide fish that feed tens of millions of people. Wetlands and lakes provide important flood protection… In other words, we couldn’t manage without them.

So why haven’t we taken better care of these vital resources? The truth is that far too many of our rivers, wetlands and ‘aquifers’ (layers of rock underground where water is naturally stored) have been badly damaged or allowed to deteriorate.

In the last century, two thirds of the world's precious wetlands were lost. Numbers of freshwater animals have declined by three quarters since 1970. People have been affected too. The drying of rivers and wetlands, along with increased pollution, have damaged livelihoods and affected human health.

There’s actually enough water in the world for people and wildlife – but it needs to be used more wisely. We're working hard to protect and manage freshwater resources around the world.

Dave Tickner

"I’m fascinated by rivers. They're dynamic, mysterious and they're home to incredible wildlife. The trouble is, our rivers are under pressure as never before. We’re constantly striving to tackle the big problems facing rivers like the Yangtze, the Mara and the Ganges, working in partnership with scientists, communities, governments and businesses. It’s challenging but very rewarding work."

Dave Tickner
Chief adviser for freshwater