Freshwater Ecosystems of the World Need Conservation

Collected resources on how and why Pew works to restore and protect these critical habitats

How and Why Freshwater Habitats Need Protection
The Puelo River in Chilean Patagonia is the focus of a campaign to protect its free-flowing waters.
Andres Amengual Martin 2010 Andres Amengual 2010 All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: This page was updated on November 10, 2022, to more accurately reflect Pew’s work on freshwater in the United States.

Freshwater habitats, including wetlands, lakes, streams, and rivers, sustain human well-being and global biodiversity. They provide clean drinking water, flood control, and carbon sequestration and support recreation and tourism.

Yet, despite the important roles freshwater habitats play in ecosystems and economies, freshwater makes up only a small amount of the water on the planet: 70% of the world is covered in water, but only 2.5% of that is freshwater. And these scarce and critical waters are under increasing threat from climate change and human development.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is focused on advancing policies that protect freshwater ecosystems around the world, such as securing federal and state protections for rivers and wetlands and reconnecting rivers through dam removal in the United States, conserving flood plains and promoting Indigenous rights to manage rivers in Australia, and campaigning for river systems in Chile. Across the globe, Pew is working to help protect and restore these important habitats for people and nature.

The experts and analysis featured here examine the reasons and strategies for protecting and reconnecting freshwater ecosystems in these diverse parts of the world.

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