Changing waterways

Faisal Magray/UNICEF
Changing Water System}

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Human activities such as damming, industrial and agricultural production and land-use change, are changing natural freshwater systems around the world, from rivers and lakes to wetlands and groundwater reservoirs. As climate change exposes the vulnerability of our freshwater sources and infrastructure, 30% of freshwater ecosystems have been lost in the past 50 years alone. This causes a threat to the billions of people around the world relying on them for food, water and livelihoods and increases their vulnerability to hazards such as extreme weather events.

Related Cases


On 1 September 2021, remnants of Hurricane Ida, the costliest disaster of 2021, brought historic rainfall to New York City, triggering the city’s first-ever flash flood alerts as water flooded streets, subway stations and apartments.

Lagos faces increasingly severe annual flooding, exacerbated by sea level rise and subsidence. In 2021, floods again submerged vehicles and houses, displacing thousands from their homes.

During the 2020-2021 typhoon season, for the first time in 56 years, no typhoon made landfall on Taiwan, leading to one of the worst droughts in the island’s history. As reservoirs fell below 5% capacity, more than one million households and businesses had to ration water.

Chinese Paddlefish have been around for an estimated 200 million years, but were declared extinct in 2020. While overfishing and pollution played an accelerating role, much of its demise can be attributed to the multiple dam constructions on the Yangtze River.

On 20 May 2020, Super Cyclone Amphan hit the Sundarbans region bordering India and Bangladesh as a Category 5 storm, with wind speeds over 260 km/h, killing over 100 people and displacing over 4.9 million.

Explore more from the 2023 report