Fresh water is vital to life and yet it is a finite resource. Of all the water on Earth, just 3% is fresh water. Although critical to natural and human communities, fresh water is threatened by a myriad of forces including overdevelopment, polluted runoff and global warming. With this in mind, WWF partners with communities, businesses and others to decrease pollution, increase water efficiency and protect natural areas to ensure enough clean water exists to conserve wildlife and provide a healthy future for all.
Water is an amazing element. It is unique because it can be naturally found as a solid, liquid or gas. As lakes, oceans, rivers and streams increase in temperature, some water will change from liquid to gas, collecting together into clouds of moisture. As these clouds float over cooler seas or land, some of the moisture falls as rain or snow. Rain and snow that falls on the land either seeps into low places – feeding aquifers and groundwater tables –or flows down hill, forming headwaters. These headwaters flow into streams, which in turn flow into rivers or lakes. Eventually, these waters flow to the sea, starting the cycle over again.
Water can be broadly separated into salt water and fresh water. Salt water is 97% of all water and is found mostly in our oceans and seas. Fresh water is found in glaciers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, streams, wetlands and even groundwater. These freshwater habitats are less than 1% of the world’s total surface area yet house 10% of all known animals and up to 40% of all known fish species. Despite their importance to life as a drinking water source, sustaining crops through irrigation, providing food in the form of fish, powering homes through dams and moving goods by barges –freshwater habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate.