Rivers are Life unveils inaugural ‘state of rivers around the world’ survey results

Collective voice for global river ecosystems Rivers are Life has revealed the multinational, multicultural, and cross-generational results of its ‘state of rivers around the world’ survey conducted by Savanta, a market research consultancy, from 3-18 Oct 2023. The global survey gathered insights from 6,645 people throughout 14 countries and four continents, including North America, South America, Europe, and South East Asia. 

These results show that, despite regional and cultural differences, people globally agree that climate health and rivers are inseparable  

About 91% of people around the world believe that climate change needs to be acted on in 2024, and 9 in 10 report that rivers are important to climate change mitigation. Moreover, 80% globally agree that rivers have an impact on their lives. 

Despite 81% of people considering rivers to be a vital part of the food system and 94% agreeing that rivers are important to agriculture, the majority would not eat a fish out of their local river

“What is most shocking about this data is that more than 90% of the world agrees on: climate change needs to be addressed, and rivers play a vital role in mitigating those issues,” said Katie Horning, BeAlive, head of Rivers are Life. “Despite that alignment, there are still gaps in knowledge about rivers, and how people can take action to make a difference.”

Greater education is needed 

Across findings, respondents agreed that there is a need for greater education around the environment, river systems and how they can help.

98% would like to know more about environmental issues

Additionally, 74% of participants believe more public awareness will improve the health of rivers, and 63% say lack of attention to the issue is a major obstacle to reducing water pollution. 

“Education is a component to addressing issues like river pollution, and we at Louisiana State University (LSU) contribute both academic expertise and on-the-ground support to Rivers are Life,” said Clint Willson, interim dean of LSU college of the coast and environment and director of the LSU centre for river studies. The centre is an academic partner to Rivers are Life. “LSU commitment to this research signifies educating and encouraging younger generations globally to advocate for the vitality of waterways.” 

Around the world, and across generations, there are a few key differentiators about what individuals want to learn and how they take action. It is reported that 69% of people in South America and Asia are twice as likely to be interested in learning about environmental issues facing rivers than those in North America and Europe, which encompassed 30%.

Limiting pollution in rivers is a higher concern for people in South America and Asia when compared to North America and Europe

More urgent action is required

While most survey respondents agree that some action is required, the findings show differing responses when it comes to how this problem is addressed: with 76% believing that human behaviour is the biggest obstacle to reducing water pollution; and only 10% of participants strongly agreeing that their countries’ leaders care about the health of rivers.

Despite these concerns, respondents shared a sense of hopefulness and willingness to help

About 59% of people are planning to take action to help clean their rivers in 2024, they just need help getting started. 

Images: Rivers are Life