Water Pollution

Land and sea ecosystems are intimately linked. Our activities on land can mean the difference between clean water and healthy ecosystems, or polluted water blanketing ecosystems like reefs in silt and chemicals.

Water pollution flows from many sources. It includes domestic and industrial wastewater and sewage, sediment runoff from deforestation and land-clearing, chemicals and fertilisers from agricultural runoff,, and urban runoff. Every day, these contaminants enter rivers and streams flowing into the ocean, risking the survival of some of our most biodiversity-rich and fragile ecosystems – mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs – ecosystems that underpin life in our oceans as well as food and livelihoods for coastal communities all over the world.

Water pollution isn't just bad for biodiversity, it's also a major contributor to global disease burdens and is estimated to cause $19 billion in economic losses annually. Pollution impacts the health, livelihood security, and economic opportunities of communities. Stemming the tide of water pollution is one of the most important local management strategies available for protecting our ocean ecosystems and people.

Water Pollution By the Numbers

#1 local threat

Water pollution from deforestation and agriculture is the #1 local threat facing coral reefs

$19.8 billion

The public health consequences of wastewater pollution in coastal marine environments results in an estimated $19.8 billion a year in economic losses

  • More than 50% of coral reefs and 80% of seagrass beds are exposed to wastewater pollution.
  • An estimated 180 million cases of upper respiratory disease and gastroenteritis and 4 million cases of infectious hepatitis A and E occur each year as a result of bathing in polluted ocean water or ingesting contaminated seafood.

Our Approach

At WCS, we:

  1. Safeguard coastal climate strongholds by addressing pollution, water security, and human health.
  2. Develop strategic partnerships across sectors for a cohesive and holistic approach to water pollution management.
  3. Elevate and implement landscape-scale conservation initiatives (i.e., ridge to reef conservation, nature-based solutions for water resource management) to deliver joint biodiversity, human health, and climate adaptation outcomes.
  4. Develop new technology tools that enable multi-sector project planning and implementation to maximise ecosystem health benefits.

An Ambitious Water Pollution Agenda

Coastal Pollution Toolkit

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