© WWF-Viet Nam / Cham Team
New WWF report finds water crisis threatens US$58 trillion in economic value, food security and sustainability — that’s 60% of global GDP at risk.

Water, the world's most precious yet undervalued resource, lies at the heart of a mounting global crisis that threatens both human and planetary health, warns a new report, published by WWF.

The High Cost of Cheap Water uncovers a stark reality: the annual economic value of water and freshwater ecosystems is estimated to be US$58 trillion – equivalent to 60% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP)*. But the world’s freshwater ecosystems are in a downward spiral, posing an ever growing risk to these values. 

Despite generating an estimated 7 times more value than direct use activities, the indirect benefits of freshwater are chronically undervalued. These ecosystem benefits – the natural processes that rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers provide to support human well-being – range from water purification and sediment delivery to biodiversity conservation, and the protection of communities from severe droughts and catastrophic flooding. 

The degradation of rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater aquifers is putting this value at risk and threatening climate resilience in the 21st century. We need to invest in nature by creating the right governance, stewardship, financing, and partnership structures to protect, restore and sustainably manage the world’s rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers – and pave the way for a net-zero, nature-positive, equitable and resilient future.


The report highlights how challenges are particularly urgent in the Mekong Delta, one of the world’s largest and most fertile deltas straddling Southwestern Viet Nam and Cambodia. Contributing to almost one quarter of global freshwater fish catches and home to over 18 million people in Viet Nam alone, the region is a high-value critical asset to global rice production and biodiversity. However, the report stresses that sand mining and dam construction have led to devastating impacts for human livelihoods and wildlife. With more than 600 hectares of riverside and coastal land being lost annually due to erosion in this region, immense value is at risk if urgent action is not taken.

© WWF-Viet Nam / Cham Team