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EditPhoto Title:The Freshwater Health Index
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EditImage Description:Macushi girl playing in water
EditPhoto Credit:© Pete Oxford/iLCP
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We all need water to survive — and that means we must understand and monitor the lakes, rivers and wetlands that provide it for us.

Fresh water sustains ecosystems and human life. Without access to clean, sustainable sources of water, communities are at risk of disease and famine, and economic development will flounder. Yet today, there is a critical gap in the understanding and monitoring of the world’s freshwater ecosystems — even as the U.N. estimates that half of the people on Earth will likely face water shortages by 2030.

Our role

Conservation International’s Freshwater Health Index will provide a way of measuring the overall condition of freshwater ecosystems and their capacity to support healthy and economically-sustainable human populations. In doing so, it will improve the management of freshwater ecosystems and contribute to closing the “water gap” by 2030.

Our plan

The Freshwater Health Index will assess the status of specific benefits that people receive from freshwater ecosystems, using a large and diverse set of information on ecological, biophysical and socio‐economic characteristics. These characteristics may include, for example,​ the amount of water flowing through an ecosystem at any time, water quality or the species present in an ecosystem.

These findings will then be delivered through a data-rich and user-friendly website that will provide a wide range of stakeholders — including landscape and water managers, planners, businesses and policymakers — with the information they need to help reverse the current global trends of freshwater ecosystem degradation and service loss.

Most importantly, the Freshwater Health Index will identify where and how we might be failing in maintaining our ecosystems adequately and sustainably. We will be able to use the Index to reverse those declines.

The Index will leverage the experience and methods behind recent initiatives led by CI, including the Ocean Health Index, the Vital Signs monitoring system and the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation.

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EditQuote Text (Do not add quotation marks):It is unclear how far past any planetary boundary we have pushed our water-based support services …. but to make the definitive judgment will require good information and good people.
EditQuote Attribution:Charles J Vörösmarty et al., “Global water, the anthropocene and the transformation of a science” (2013)
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First Image

EditImage Alt Text:Night falls over Rio de Janeiro. © Nikada

Second Image

EditTitle:Science and Innovation
EditImage Alt Text:Scientists set a camera trap. © Benjamin Drummond

Third Image

EditTitle:The Ocean
EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse