About the Water Programme

The Challenge

Only 3% of the earth’s water is freshwater; about two-thirds of it is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps and we have long over-stretched this precious resource.

The world faces considerable challenges in equitably managing the freshwater available to us for a growing population as we try and manage the impacts of climate change.

The IUCN Water Programme is a trusted partner for evidence-based and adaptive change in water resource management that benefits nature and people.

IUCN Water works on implementing sustainable river basin management through field projects and partnerships worldwide. IUCN Water focuses on integrated river basin management using an ecosystems approach. Key themes of work include strengthening governance in transboundary basins, improving water security in growth corridors, demonstrating natural infrastructure solutions, supporting innovation in the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus, and promoting climate resilience.

From Asia’s Mekong to Nigeria’s Komadugu Yobe River and Tanzania’s Pangani Basin, IUCN works towards managing and protecting our water reserves for the benefit of all. We help to create policies and laws in which all users, rich and poor, urban and rural, have a say in how their increasingly stressed waters are allocated, managed and conserved.



Mali, West Africa

Mali, West Africa

Photo: Taco Anema / IUCN

IUCN's Response

Responding to the need to protect and conserve our water resources, IUCN formed the Water Programme in 1985. Since its inception, the Water Programme has been working across the world, mainly focusing on the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. These programmes have covered multiple areas such as integrated water resource management, environmental flows, water economics, watershed ecosystems, as well as river bank rehabilitation, and the effects of climate change on global water supply and distribution.

IUCN’s Water Programme contributes towards the conservation of water biodiversity by promoting, influencing and catalyzing sustainable uses and equitable sharing of resources, as well as protecting ecosystems. In order to attain these goals, the water programme is focusing on the following objectives:

  • Further development and implementation of a focused Union-wide Water Programme
  • Establishment of an active network of Members, Commissions, individuals and Institutions to implement the Programme
  • Influencing global debate and decisions on conservation and sustainable use of water resources
  • Establishment of partnerships through the implementation of joint activities on water conservation


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  • Women at pump, Tanzania

    Women at pump, Tanzania

    Photo: Taco Anema / IUCN