Human civilization was born on a riverbank. For thousands of years, the relationship was a relatively benign one. However, in the last 50 years, we have altered ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any other period in history (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) 2005). Rapid population growth, economic development and industrialization have led to the unprecedented transformation of freshwater ecosystems and consequent biodiversity loss (Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 2005; MA 2005). Today, 41% of the world’s population lives in river basins under water stress.
Most of the world’s major rivers suffer from over-pollution, navigation, and dam infrastructure, and over–extraction. Add to this the impact of global warming, which will increase droughts, floods, and waterborne diseases the world’s rivers are in a state of crisis. Many rivers are so damaged that without serious restoration efforts they could be lost, and others that are relatively intact, are facing massive degradation. Healthy rivers boost community safety and security, building resilience against these impacts and helping communities thrive in the face of climate change.