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Why we care about waters that cross borders

Rio Grande River, Texas

We depend on fresh water for everything from energy to power our cities to food to fuel our bodies and keep us alive. Yet less than 1 percent of the world’s water is fresh and accessible. This means we must work extra hard—together—to protect the invaluable finite resource.

What is a transboundary waterway?
A transboundary waterway is a freshwater river or lake or aquifer that crosses an international border. For example, the Rio Grande/Bravo touches both the United States and Mexico. Today, more than 270 lakes and rivers around the world cross international borders.

Why do transboundary waterways matter?
When freshwater systems touch or include more than one country, they become shared resources. Unfortunately, many countries are not working together to ensure water security in all parts of their shared water systems. Decisions corporations, financial institutions, individuals or governments make about water in one part of the system impact the lives of individuals and wildlife in other parts. For example, in the Mekong river system, decisions made by upstream countries like Laos and China impact people and places downstream in Cambodia and Vietnam. Currently downstream countries, like Cambodia and Vietnam in this example, often don’t have significant influence over the decisions made by upstream countries.

How do we get countries to work together?
WWF supports the United Nations Watercourses Convention, a global agreement and framework made to govern freshwaters that touch multiple countries. The main goal of the UN Watercourses Convention is to strengthen cooperation between countries sharing valuable freshwater resources and prevent potential conflicts. WWF believes countries can use the tools in this convention to effectively manage fresh water.

What can we encourage cooperation?
Tell global leaders to cooperate on freshwater resources. Sign on today!