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Why Rivers?

Nearly 90% of the earth’s population lives within walking distance of a river system. Sadly, these natural, and life-providing wonders are on the verge of collapse. By focusing our efforts on cleaning rivers, we are protecting the most vital habitat on earth while removing pollutants from the very sources that feed into our oceans. Protecting and restoring rivers is critical to improving community and environmental health.

Together, we can protect these vital resources.

The Story

Since the dawn of humanity, rivers have been important sources of sustenance. Throughout history and even today, people have built their settlements by the riverside where they have access to food, water, and transportation. The benefits that rivers have brought to humanity are countless; they have provided irrigation for farms and freshwater for people to drink, bathe and wash their belongings. For farmers, rivers provide a way to feed their herds. Riverbanks are lush sources of food even in the midst of the desert. They are sources of fish and seafood and they make it possible for crops to flourish.

In ancient Egypt, early farmers built homes and planted crops alongside the mighty Nile. In ancient India, the Harappa civilization was founded on the banks of the Indus River. Rivers have nurtured human civilizations for thousands of years and will continue to do so. Through developed irrigation systems, rivers irrigate 62 percent of all irrigated land. This land accounts for 40 percent of global food production, meaning rivers directly support approximately a quarter of global food production. 

Globally, nearly 12 million tons of freshwater fish are harvested per year in river fisheries. This provides the primary source of protein for at least 160 million people. River fisheries provide livelihoods for 60 million people, with 55 percent of those being women.


As our societies have grown more complex, rivers have continued to play an important role. Boats carry people and goods up and down the rivers, connecting societies and strengthening trade routes. Ships carry food from coast to coast and play an important role in global trade by being the arteries that move products to the sea where they can be shipped abroad. Today, 90% of humans live within walking distance of a river system. Rivers are one of the things we all share. From the Nile to the Hudson, human beings thrive when they are by the riverside.

despite their life giving importance, rivers stand on the brink of collapse.

Rivers don’t just support human societies, they support rich and diverse ecosystems. As the unsung heroes of biodiversity, rivers house nearly 50% of all fish species and create the required ecosystem that allows plant life, aquatic birds, and small animal populations to flourish. That’s not even taking into account the woodlands that surround many riversides.

Rivers also support wetlands and marshes, which provide either homes or breeding grounds for an estimated 40% of the world’s species. Without rivers to feed into the wetlands, all of the species that rely on marshlands for survival would be in jeopardy.

River systems are the most vital habitat on earth supporting both life and economies, but also dangerous highways of ocean waste. Pollution comes in many different forms, from garbage to industrial waste to bio-waste. Studies show that approximately 80% of the world’s wastewater is dumped right back into the environment before it can be fully treated. The waste winds up in our waterways, polluting rivers, lakes, and eventually oceans.

0% of the world's population lives within walking distance of a river system
0% of known fish species swim within rivers
0% of global GDP along river systems by 2050

Answering The Call

Rivers provide vital support for human life and wildlife. But today, rivers around the world are at risk. Pollution is an increasing problem. This pollution damages the rivers themselves, as well as the surrounding ecosystems and the many lives that depend on them. This presents an immediate and dangerous impact on human beings. As the world’s demand for freshwater continues to grow, the importance of clean rivers becomes more important than ever.

Enter River Heroes. All over the world individuals, communities, and organizations are rising to the challenge to effect real change both locally and globally.

Join The Movement

We invite you to join the Rivers Are Life movement and be part of a new era of modern exploration highlighting the wonder of our planet’s rivers, the humans and wildlife that call them home, and the issues that threaten this vital natural resource. Together, we can learn, understand, and inspire the action that will lead to real change.