- WWF’s new report estimates the annual economic value of water and freshwater ecosystems at $58 trillion, equivalent to 60% of global GDP.
- Degradation of freshwater ecosystems threatens their economic value and poses risks to human and planetary health.
- Since 1970, the world has lost one-third of its wetlands, and freshwater wildlife populations have dropped by 83% on average.
- The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo basin in the U.S. and Mexico could see a 25% loss of river flows by 2050 if no action is taken.
- WWF calls for increased investment in sustainable water infrastructure and the restoration of degraded freshwater ecosystems.
A new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns of a looming global water crisis that threatens both human and planetary health. Released on World Food Day, the report, titled “The High Cost of Cheap Water,” reveals that the annual economic value of water and freshwater ecosystems is estimated to be $58 trillion, equivalent to 60% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Economic Value and Ecosystem Degradation
The report emphasizes that the degradation of rivers, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers is putting their economic value at risk. Since 1970, the world has lost one-third of its remaining wetlands, and freshwater wildlife populations have declined by an average of 83%. This degradation contributes to water shortages, food insecurity, and exacerbates the impacts of climate change.
The U.S. and Mexico: A Case Study
In the United States and Mexico, the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo (RGRB) basin is drying up due to human water withdrawals and climate change. The RGRB provides water for more than 6 million people in the United States and over 10 million people in Mexico. If no actions are taken, a 25% loss of river flows in parts of the RGRB basin could occur by 2050, with devastating consequences for people, wildlife, and businesses.
Direct and Unseen Economic Benefits
The report finds that direct economic benefits, such as water consumption for households, agriculture, and industries, amount to at least $7.5 trillion annually. Unseen benefits, including water purification, soil health enhancement, and carbon storage, are estimated to be around $50 trillion annually.
Urgent Call to Action
WWF urges governments, businesses, and financial institutions to invest urgently in sustainable water infrastructure to mitigate the water crisis. The organization also calls for a focus on reversing the ongoing loss of freshwater ecosystems and protecting intact ones. For instance, governments should join the Freshwater Challenge, an initiative aiming to restore 300,000 km of degraded rivers and 350 million hectares of degraded wetlands globally by 2030.