Improving our Fresh Water Environment - Earthwatch


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Why does fresh water matter?

Water is essential to all life, but good quality water is in short supply. Only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water, and less than 1% of that water is available for people to use. As a result, over 800 million people still live without access to safe water.

Fresh water is a vital but increasingly scarce resource. As our population grows, pollution from agriculture, industry, vehicles and households is threatening the quality of this water in every part of the world.

  • In just 40 years, freshwater species populations suffered a 76% decline
  • More people die from poor-quality water annually than from all forms of violence, including war
  • More than 80% of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or the sea without any pollution removal
  • Ten rivers across Asia and Africa carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the oceans. Toxic algal blooms, mostly caused by nutrient pollution, are damaging fisheries, ecosystems and human health

What are we doing?

We have a long history of bringing people together to tackle environmental challenges, including freshwater pollution. We specialise in empowering people and businesses to look after their natural environment, through actions rooted in scientific evidence.

Through simple hands-on activities, we help people monitor the quality of local freshwater resources, such as lakes, rivers and wetlands. At the same time, these ‘citizen scientists’ are contributing to vital research, and helping to inform policymakers involved in water management.

Global freshwater resources are in crisis, and it’s up to all of us to help protect them. 


Anyone can get involved in helping us protect our freshwater resources for the future. Our activities allow everyone to contribute to research as citizen scientists, making a big difference to how we manage water at the local, regional and global level.

Whether you’re an individual, a business, or a community organisation, working with Earthwatch is fun, rewarding and provides the opportunity to have a positive impact on our planet.


FreshWater Watch is a global project which brings communities together to help protect both the quality and supply of fresh water. We train people across the world to monitor and steward their local waterbodies. The resulting data is used to identify the causes of pollution hotspots and to assess the effectiveness of restoration efforts, providing the evidence needed to support action for improving water quality.

FreshWater Watch has had an impressive impact since it began in 2012. More than 12,000 volunteer citizen scientists have collected 26,000 datasets on water quality in total. This data, covering over 100 ecosystems over 29 countries, has contributed to more than 20 scientific publications.

We’re helping over 40 organisations work with local communities to look after their freshwater resources. And we’re working with ten influential businesses, inspiring their employees to become leaders in sustainability.

Find out more about our FreshWater Watch project.


The issue of plastic in the oceans has attracted a lot of attention recently. But the problem starts on our doorstep: most of the harmful plastic in the ocean comes from the rubbish that ends up in our rivers, because of littering and waste mismanagement.

Earthwatch Europe has partnered with Plastic Oceans to confront this problem. Together, we have identified the top ten plastic items that most commonly pollute our rivers. We’re now working to raise awareness of this problem amongst the public, making recommendations for how we can all reduce the amount of plastic we use and improve how we recycle and/or dispose of it.

Businesses which use and produce plastic items also have a crucial role to play. We’ve focused on the important issue of microplastics – tiny particles that can be found in, or created from, many everyday products. We’re now working with businesses to help them reduce the impact that microplastics can have on our rivers and the organisms that rely on them.

Find out more about our Plastic Rivers project. 


We run a free WaterBlitz twice a year where you can get hands-on with outdoor scientific research, contributing to our understanding of water health in Europe.


We can all help to prevent water pollution, starting with using less plastic. Our guide to the top ten plastic pollutants has some great ideas for reducing how much plastic you use, from buying reusable bottles and cups to using products made from more sustainable materials.

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