Rivers at Risk

We’re losing the world’s largest free-flowing rivers. Only about 1/3 of the world’s rivers over 1000km, and less than 1/2 of rivers over 500km, remain free-flowing.

Flowing Forward

Hydropower is booming. There are over 20,100 existing dams, and thousands more are planned. Science-based, basin-level plans can minimize negative impacts and maximize energy and economic returns.

Free the Rivers

In some places, removing an outdated infrastructure project or restoring a critical stretch of a river can reconnect a vast network and put significant free-flowing rivers back on the map.

Source to Sea

Only a handful of the world’s rivers still run freely from their source to the sea, and most of them are critical to food security. Healthy, connected rivers are necessary for migratory fish species, floodplain and agriculture.

River Refugees

The tropics and the arctic are the final frontiers for free-flowing rivers. These are refugees for free-flowing rivers, and can embrace the unique cultural, environmental and sustainable development opportunities this offers.

Political borders

Free-flowing rivers that cross political borders face particular challenges, due to the need for international cooperation. What one country does to its water impacts all others who share the same freshwater system, underscoring the need for good trans-boundary water governance.

Protecting Freedom

There are legal frameworks to protect free-flowing rivers, but their effectiveness varies. Looking at diverse examples of protection mechanisms from around the world, can learn how countries can protect important rivers over the long term as part of sustainable development.

United States | The first national jurisdiction to pass legislation to protect wild rivers and currently protects about 12,7000 miles of river

Mexico | Water reserves secure river water for the next 50 years in a changing climate

Brazil | Proposed dams on the Tapajós and Juruena demonstrate that rivers within protected areas may not have durable protection

Norway | Dependence on hydropower has resulted in development of a high proportion of its rivers, but Norway has also formally protected more rivers from development than any other country.

China | Species-specific reserve in the upper Yangtze shows such designations are only as strong a the will to maintain them

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