Water connects us all.
If water is the lifeblood of the planet, rivers, lakes and wetlands are the hard-working systems that keep it pumping.
These systems—which also include springs, deltas and intricate underground networks—feed communities, shape cultures and sustain the diversity of life on Earth.
But for too long, we’ve undervalued our freshwater ecosystems. We’ve over-extracted, overfished and over-engineered them. Now, these ecosystems are in trouble.
We need fresh water, and fresh water needs us.
Threats to the world's freshwater systems are stacking up.
Populations of monitored freshwater plants and animals have declined by 83% since 1970—far greater than any other biome.
Only 1/3 of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing.
Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than tropical forests.
Half of all people on the planet now live in water-stressed areas.
Deforestation, fragmentation from dams, unsustainable farming and fishing, and unchecked pollution are only adding to the increasingly frequent and damaging impacts of climate change.
But there is hope. Freshwater systems that are degraded can recover—and they can recover quickly. Where freshwater ecosystems remain healthy and connected, we can protect them.
What’s at stake for fresh water
How We Protect Fresh Water
Fresh water is connected to everything The Nature Conservancy does, and we're determined to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems at unprecedented scales.
By leveraging our long history of innovation and collaboration, we know we can scale up breakthrough strategies for freshwater that are durable and long-lasting.
We're already working on close to 400 projects in nearly 40 countries, but we must go further and faster to achieve our goals for 2030.
Freshwater Goals to Achieve by 2030
Safeguard or restore at least 1 million kilometers of rivers and streams.
Conserve 30 million hectares of lakes, wetlands, deltas and floodplains.
Ensure over 10 million people benefit directly from healthy freshwater ecosystems.
Solutions Explainer Video
Take a 2-Minute Water Break
Our Freshwater Approaches
Click tiles for examples from around the world.
We Must Save Fresh Water to Save Ourselves
Nicole Silk, TNC's Global Director of Freshwater Outcomes, details how and why we must accelerate the pace and scale of freshwater conservation.
A Coalition for Europe's Last Wild Rivers
As part of an effort to protect 13 incredible rivers in Europe's Western Balkans, local people are emerging as 'River Champions.' Immerse yourself in their stories of ecological revival and spiritual renewal.
The Secret Life of Eels
A pair of studies offer a tantalizing glimpse at the mysterious life cycle of the American eel.
How The Water Shapes Us
Our magazine asked photographers to document how water influences life across the Mississippi River basin. They delivered in this rich and captivating photo essay.
Protecting the Dorado Catfish's Epic Migration
The dorado catfish connects the rivers and people of the Amazon basin as it journeys on the world's longest freshwater migration. Learning about this fish's 11,000 km route can go a long way to protecting ecosystems throughout the Amazon.