High Cost of Cheap Water: The True Value of Water and Freshwater Ecosystems to People and Planet

This report sheds light on the misconception of water's abundance. Despite over 70% of the Earth's surface being covered by water, our freshwater security is under threat due to the extensive exploitation of rivers, lakes, and aquifers. This crisis is adversely affecting both human and planetary health, leading to billions lacking access to safe water and sanitation, a surge in food insecurity, and a rapid loss of freshwater species. The root cause lies in our failure to appropriately value this vital resource.

The report emphasizes that water plays a crucial role not only in sustaining communities and species, but also in driving industrial production, transportation of goods, and energy generation throughout the supply chain. It stresses the interconnectedness of freshwater access and usage, highlighting that decisions regarding water have far-reaching impacts on various industries and communities. WWF estimates that in 2021, the total quantifiable economic value derived from water amounts to around US$58 trillion, equivalent to the combined GDPs of the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and India.