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© David James / WWF-Malaysia


Freshwater is one of the most crucial resources for humans and all other living creatures on earth. Our lives revolve around water, and sufficient clean water is essential for our healthy living as well as the health of the environment.


Malaysia receives abundant rainfall averaging 3,000mm annually that contributes to an estimated annual water resource of some 900 billion cubic metres. About 97% of our raw water supply for agricultural, domestic and industrial needs are derived from surface water sources primarily rivers. Malaysia has 189 river basins - 89 in Peninsular Malaysia, 78 in Sabah and 22 in Sarawak. All the rivers originate and flow from the highlands.


Besides being a water source, rivers also contribute to our lives in numerous ways. In fact, we are very intimately intertwined with rivers as they affect us culturally, socially and economically. We rely on rivers for our food resources, and the livelihoods of riverine communities in particular are significantly dependent on rivers. We utilise rivers as means of transport and navigation routes, to generate hydroelectric power, to irrigate agricultural land, as centres for establishing new settlements and for recreation.

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All of us recognise that water is needed in all aspects of our lives and adequate supply of good quality water is critical for our well-being. Without water, development would also not be possible - it’s a common factor that cuts across all sectors of development. In Malaysia, we are blessed with an abundance of rainfall and water resources. It has been estimated that each of us enjoy a per capita renewable water of more than 5,000 m3 per person per year.


Important freshwater habitats in the country are the highland forests and wetlands (both forested wetlands and water bodies such as rivers and lakes. Forests in the highlands, often referred to as natural ‘water towers’ because of their water catchment function, help provide us with continuous clean supply of water. They are the source for most of the country’s water resources. Wetlands provide a range of natural ecological and hydrological functions therefore they have important roles in water supply, water purification and flood control.

These freshwater ecosystems are facing numerous threats and challenges. Recognising this, WWF-Malaysia promotes the conservation, integrated management and sustainable use of freshwater ecosystems.

© Mazidi Abd Ghani / WWF-Malaysia