Freshwater Health Index

There is a critical gap in the understanding and monitoring of how we are altering the world’s freshwater ecosystems—and how that, in turn, impacts people.

The Freshwater Health Index is a tool that measures ecosystem system health by making clear connections between freshwater ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people.

How it works

The Freshwater Health Index tool allows resource managers, engineers, policy makers and other interested stakeholders evaluate scenarios, understand tradeoffs, prioritize interventions and communicate basin health with a broad audience by:

  • Transforming data into commonly scaled indicators (on a 0-100 scale), providing a baseline diagnosis of a basin’s health
  • Tracking freshwater health over time through an iterative process between scientists, end-users and other stakeholders for a result that is salient, credible and useful. 
  • Evaluating potential impacts from climate change, land cover change, population growth and water allocation decisions.

Because the Index helps make trade-offs more explicit, it can help direct policies and practices that maintain healthy watersheds into the future.

Scale and Scope

The Freshwater Health Index is intended to be applied at the drainage basin scale – where resource management decisions are most relevant and decision support is likely to be most useful – but it can also be applied at smaller or larger scales. And it can be adapted to meet socio-political, economic and ecological variations as well as data availability and informational needs.

80% of the global population is threatened with insufficient water quantity or quality.

It is estimated that, by 2030, our planet’s need for water will outstrip its reliable supply by 40%.

Less than 1% of the fresh water on Earth is accessible for human use.