Water security is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity.
As the climate changes and becomes less predictable, so does the planet’s finite supply of fresh water. By 2030, our planet’s need for water will be 40% greater than its reliable supply.
To address the growing issue of water insecurity around the world, Conservation International developed an innovative, science-based tool for gauging the health of freshwater ecosystems.
The Freshwater Health Index
The Freshwater Health Index (FHI) offers a framework for water managers and decision-makers to analyze the health of their basins, understand the trade-offs and consequences of their actions, and discuss approaches to creating healthy, sustainable watersheds into the future.
The FHI scores watersheds on a scale of 1-100 across three dimensions: the “vitality” of freshwater ecosystems, whether people are getting the water services they need and the level of coordination among the people who govern water use.
This information makes clear connections between freshwater ecosystems, the benefits they provide to people and the governance systems in place to regulate them. The scores are designed to provide a snapshot of conditions in a basin — a useful starting point, especially considering that in most freshwater ecosystems around the world, that baseline information doesn’t exist.
Conservation International has applied, or is in the process of applying, the FHI in water basins across Asia, Latin America and Africa. In addition, our partners have begun to carry out independent FHI assessments, strengthening the water supplies of more than 138 million people. Results are being used in some areas to implement targeted conservation programs that help improve ecosystem health. In other basins water managers are exploring ways to incorporate the FHI into national freshwater management plans.
The Freshwater Health Index (FHI) assesses the health of a watershed and helps decision-makers understand what’s working, what needs to be improved, and what trade-offs are being made.
By 2025, Conservation International will refine the FHI and catalyze its widespread adoption to ensure that at least 1 billion people in the world's most water-insecure basins benefit from FHI assessments to guide more sustainable management of freshwater resources.