Water is the most essential of natural resources, yet freshwater systems are directly threatened by human activities and will be further affected by anthropogenic climate change.
Protecting the world’s freshwater resources requires diagnosing threats over a broad range of scales, from global to local. Whereas previous assessments of water resources have relied on fragmentary data often expressed as country-level statistics, an international group of researchers, including UWA’s Professor Peter Davies, from the Centre of Excellence for Natural Resource Management, have recently conducted a worldwide analysis of threats to fresh water that, for the first time, considers human water security and biodiversity perspectives within a global geospatial framework.
The study found that nearly 80% of the world’s population, particularly those in developing countries, are exposed to high levels of threat to water security, and that 65% of freshwater habitats are under moderate to high threat. Indeed, estimates suggest that at least 10, 000–20, 000 freshwater species are extinct or at risk, with loss rates rivalling those of previous transitions between geological epochs like the Pleistocene-to-Holocene.
The worldwide pattern of river threats documented by these researchers offers the most comprehensive analysis so far of threats to water security for both humans and nature.