In a recent report released by WWF, the true value of water and freshwater ecosystems is revealed, estimating a staggering US$58 trillion annually, equivalent to 60% of the world’s GDP. This value underpins not only economic prosperity but also the health of our planet and humanity. However, the degradation of rivers, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers poses a grave threat to this economic worth and their vital role in sustaining life.
A disheartening trend unfolds as freshwater ecosystems are in decline. Since 1970, we’ve lost one-third of our wetlands, and freshwater wildlife populations have dwindled by 83%. This decline contributes to water shortages, food insecurity, and environmental degradation. It also hampers global efforts to combat climate change.
Dr. Kirsten Schuijt, WWF International’s Director-General, emphasizes the importance of protecting these ecosystems. She stresses that governments, businesses, and financial institutions must invest in preserving and restoring freshwater resources for a future with abundant water.
The report reveals that the direct economic benefits of water usage amount to US$7.5 trillion annually, with additional unseen benefits like water purification and carbon storage reaching around US$50 trillion.
However, factors such as excessive water extraction, pollution, and climate change are imperiling freshwater ecosystems. Shockingly, two-thirds of major rivers no longer flow freely, and wetlands disappear at an alarming rate.
Addressing this global water crisis requires investments in sustainable water infrastructure. The focus should shift towards restoring and preserving freshwater ecosystems. Governments and businesses must work together to secure the future of water, recognizing its vital role in our economies, nature, and sustainability.