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 More than 70 percent of water withdrawn from nature goes to agriculture, so we’re helping farmers access new technologies and practices that use less water while continuing to produce the food we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.
We are working with Arizona Project WET to educate students and teachers on the journey water makes from river to faucet.
Almost all Californians rely on the Delta for drinking water. But, it is an ecosystem on the verge of collapse - learn why and what we are doing about it.
Check out 5 tips from our California Chapter on how to conserve water outdoors.
Did you know that forests play a critical role in keeping our freshwater clean? See how we are helping kids make the connection between forests and freshwater.
Through her efforts, an Oregon ranch owner helps to provide freshwater habitat for endangered fish and other wildlife.
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.
In Papua New Guinea new rainwater collection tanks mean villagers have clean water year-round – and no longer have to walk two miles to fetch water.
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.
Most Americans don’t know where our water comes from. Why? And why does it matter?
Why are Americans becoming more vulnerable to facing water shortages? Scientist Jeff Opperman uncovers an unsettling trend.
Scientist Brian Richter explains that most of the water we use daily is ‘hidden’ in the products we eat and buy – and what the Conservancy is doing to help save more water.