Wetlands and Water: The Facts

Revision as of 12:06, 26 February 2021 by Smanganyi (talk | contribs) (→‎Three Freshwater Facts)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
A Hippo grazing in a wetland

We are in a growing water crisis that threatens people and our planet. We use more water than nature can replenish, and are destroying the ecosystem that water and all life depend on most - Wetlands.

What are wetlands

Wetlands are areas of land where water covers the soil – all year or just at certain times of the year. They include:

  • swamps, marshes
  • billabongs, lakes, lagoons
  • saltmarshes, mudflats
  • mangroves, coral reefs
  • bogs, fens, and peatlands.

Wetlands may be natural or artificial and the water within a wetland may be static or flowing, fresh, brackish or saline. There are even underground wetlands.[1]

Why are wetlands important?

Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else.

Wetlands provide an important range of environmental, social and economic services. Many wetlands are areas of great natural beauty like Victoria Falls, Cleveland Dam, and at Mana Pools National Park. Wetlands also provide important benefits for industry. For example, they form nurseries for fish and other freshwater and marine life and are critical to Australia's commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Wetlands in Zimbabwe are also important since they are a vital link between land and water.

What wetlands do

Fresh and saltwater wetlands sustain humanity and nature. They support our social and economic development through multiple services:

Store and clean water

  • Wetlands hold and provide most of our fresh water
  • They naturally filter pollutants, leaving water we can safely drink

Keep us fed

  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector, while inland fisheries alone provided 12 million tonnes of fish in 2018.
  • Rice paddies feed 3.5 billion people annually

Underpin our global economy

  • Wetlands, the most valuable ecosystem, provide services worth US$47 trillion a year
  • More than one billion people rely on wetlands for income

Provide nature a home

  • 40% of the world's species live and breed in wetlands. Annually about 200 new fish species are discovered in freshwater wetlands
  • Coral reefs are home to 25% of all species

Keep us safe

  • Wetlands provide protection from floods and storms with each acre of wetland absorbing up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater.
  • Wetlands help regulate the climate, peatlands store twice as much carbon as forests, with salt marshes, mangroves and seagrass beds also holding vast amounts of carbon

Three Freshwater Facts

  • Only 2.5% of water on earth is fresh water, mostly stored in glaciers, ice caps and underground Aquifers
  • Less than 1% of freshwater is usable
  • Rivers and lakes hold 0.3% of surface water

Freshwater Consumption

We use 10 billion tons of water every day:

  • 70% used for food cultivation
  • 22% consumed by industry and energy
  • Water use increased sixfold in 100 years and rises by 1% annually


  1. [1], Australian Government - Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Accessed: 2 February, 2021