Most people in the world get our water from rivers and lakes, including the vast majority of the world’s poorest people.
But half of the world’s 500 most important rivers – water sources for hundreds of millions of people – are being seriously depleted or polluted.* Approximately 40 percent of the rivers in the U.S. are too polluted for fishing and swimming.**
Water shortages will likely be a fact of life for most people on the planet within the next ten years.*** We can’t afford to pollute and destroy our drinking water sources. But that’s exactly what we’re doing – often without knowing it.
Forests, grasslands and wetlands are nature’s water filters. They help keep erosion and pollution from flowing into our waters and they slow rainwater down, sending more water into underground supplies. But every year we lose 32 million acres of forest – that's a lot of water filters, gone, every year.
We are facing dirtier, unsafe water and more risk of water shortages and scarcity. This crisis is real, it’s happening now and it’s getting worse fast.
The Nature Conservancy partners with people and communities in all 50 states and 72 countries to protect water sources. We work on the ground to:
- Prevent deforestation and destruction of grasslands – nature’s water filters
- Restore forests and grasslands that have already been lost or damaged and sending erosion into our waters
- Equip farmers with practical ways to keep harmful run-off out of our waters
- Restore floodplains that act as sponges and send water down into groundwater supplies and filter pollution out of rivers
- Create new science that helps pinpoint the greatest threats to our waters and the most effective ways to combat them
But we understand that nature won’t solve everything, so we’re finding new ways to reduce water use. More than 70 percent of water withdrawn from nature goes to agriculture, so we’re helping farmers access new technologies and practices that use less water while continuing to produce the food we need.
Below are a few examples of what The Nature Conservancy is doing to protect freshwater sources around the world.
Learn more and take action.
Think you only need 8 glasses of water a day? Think again.
Most of the world’s people get our drinking water from lakes and rivers. Use this interactive map to find out the water source for many cities.
Explore an interactive ‘quilt’ of snapshots, videos and stories of women around the world, like Wangari Maathai, who are working to protect clean water.
Check out 5 tips from our California Chapter on how to conserve water outdoors.
We are developing innovative ways to make sure that people and nature have enough clean water to live and to thrive.
A third-grader uses a homemade science project to show how nature provides clean water to people.
A Water Source Protection Fund enables people to protect their water supplies from pollution caused by massive wildfires. How? By funding controlled burns in forests near reservoirs.
Why are Americans becoming more vulnerable to facing water shortages? Scientist Jeff Opperman uncovers an unsettling trend.