Protecting the World's Freshwater

Learn how our Explorers are preserving the world’s freshwater resources.

Understanding freshwater is critical for life on Earth and is an integral part of the National Geographic Society’s mission.

Our World Water Map – part of the newly launched World Freshwater Initiative (WFI) – accounts for every drop of water in the world – and where it’s going. Experience this map with real-life stories about freshwater challenges and solutions told by National Geographic Explorers who are working to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.

We invest every philanthropic dollar—100 percent of donations—directly into our Explorers and programs.

For 135 years, the National Geographic Society has funded intrepid and passionate individuals dedicated to pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery and illuminating our world. The Society not only supports Explorers through funding, but also through professional development, training, leadership and speaking opportunities, community building, and connections.

What we are doing to protect the world's freshwater

World Freshwater Initiative (WFI)

In many locations on Earth humans and our way of living on the planet are placing unsustainable demands on the supply of freshwater. National Geographic’s World Freshwater Initiative focuses on freshwater availability, quality, and sustainability by leveraging the development of a one of a kind geovisualization of the world’s freshwater availability.

Over the next five years, WFI will fund National Geographic Explorers working in freshwater science, conservation, education, and storytelling.

Freshwater Conservation Projects

Image credit: Martin Gamache for M Leijnse, M F P Bierkens, K H M Gommans, D Lin, B Droppers, A Tait and N Wanders

The National Geographic Society launched a funding opportunity to support community-led freshwater conservation projects in global water-scarcity Hotspots. To read more about this, download the funding opportunity overview and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The deadline to submit pre-applications is Monday, March 25, 2024, at 11:59pm EDT.

Okavango Wilderness Project

The Okavango Basin is the main source of water for a million people and is one of the most biodiverse places in Africa. Since 2015, the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project has been surveying and collecting scientific data on the Okavango River system in collaboration with local communities; NGOs; and the governments of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana to secure permanent, sustainable protection for the greater Okavango River Basin.

Perpetual Planet Expeditions

The National Geographic Society and Rolex have partnered to support trailblazing scientific research, expeditions, and solutions to increase our understanding of the threats facing the planet’s life support systems and drive action to address them. We most recently launched the Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition – a multi-year science and storytelling exploration of the Amazon spanning the river basin from the Andes to the Atlantic to tell the story of the water and the wildlife, plants and people who depend on it.

Meet the Explorers making an impact

We’re committed to pushing the boundaries of science, storytelling, and education, and we’re making exploration more inclusive. We’re tapping scientists, educators, and storytellers in more than 140 countries; amplifying the voices of diverse groups of Explorers; and working closely with local communities.


Ghaamid Abdulbasat

Abdulbasat co-chairs the International Union for Conservation of Nature's World Commission on Protected Areas Freshwater youth sub-group, working on influencing policy on the future of water.

Thalefang Charles

Charles is the storytelling manager for National Geographic Society's Okavango Wilderness Project, which has been working with local communities, non-governmental organizations as well as the governments of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana to secure permanent and sustainable protection for the greater Okavango River basin.

Dalal Emily Lucia Hanna

Hanna’s research primarily focuses on improving understanding of the effects of forestry on freshwaters. She aims to use her research findings to inform freshwater conservation policy. She is also co-founder and director of Riparia, a Canadian charity that works to create better connections between young women and science on the water.

Jens Stefan Benöhr

Benöhr’s specializes in the ecological interactions between human populations and bodies of water.

Safa Fanaian

Fanaian’s Ph.D. research focuses on the evolution of water-related risks and its governance for riverine cities in the global south, specifically intermediate and growing cities with populations over one million.

Enrique Lomnitz

Lomnitz is an industrial designer focused on water access and sustainability. He works on the development of decentralized, autonomous water infrastructure for communities facing high levels of water insecurity in both urban and rural Mexico.

Marc Bierkens

Bierkens is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a member of the European Geosciences Union and the International Association of Hydrological Sciences and is editor for Water Resources Research.
Social Entrepreneur

Garvita Gulhati

Gulhati, known as "India's Water Girl," began her journey as a changemaker at the age of 13. She founded “Why Waste?,” India’s largest youth-led organization working towards the conservation of water.

Shreya Ramachandran

Ramachandran is the founder of the nonprofit organization The Grey Water Project which promotes the safe reuse of greywater (lightly used water that makes up 60% of the used water in our homes) and water conservation as a way to battle droughts and climate change.

Join us to learn and protect the wonder of our world

Only when people understand the challenges of freshwater supply will they be able to take action to impact sustainability for the future.

Donate now to help support projects like preserving the world’s freshwater.

Opportunities for the next generation of changemakers

Remote Externship

Building pathways to careers in freshwater and community conservation and exploration.

Slingshot Challenge

Video youth challenge aimed at solving current environmental problems to create a better world for everyone.

Explorer Classroom

Live interactive session that connects young people with National Geographic Explorers protecting the world’s freshwater resources.

Photo Camp

An immersive experience where students receive guidance from National Geographic Explorers and Photographers.

Photo credits (from top of page): Mauro Sergio, Jonathan Irish, Kostadin Luchansky, Pablo Albarenga, Ghaamid Abdulbasat, Jens Stefan Benöhr, Marc Bierkens, Thalefang Charles, Safa Fanaian, Garvita Gulhati, Dalal Emily Lucia Hanna, Enrique Lomnitz, Shreya Ramachandran, Karabo Moilwa, Kostadin Luchansky, Xavier Lorenzo/AdobeStock, Mark Thiessen, Esther Ruth Mbabazi

Get updates about our critical work to explore and protect our planet.

The National Geographic Society is proud to invest in a global community of intrepid Explorers working to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Make a tax-deductible gift to support the Society today, and your support will help fund the next generation of changemakers.