Why are rivers important?
Rivers carry water and nutrients to areas all around the earth. They play a very important part in the water cycle, acting as drainage channels for surface water. Rivers drain nearly 75% of the earth's land surface.
Rivers provide excellent habitat and food for many of the earth's organisms.
Many rare plants and trees grow by rivers. Ducks, voles, otters and beavers make their homes on the river banks. Reeds and other plants like bulrushes grow along the river banks.
Other animals use the river for food and drink. Birds such as kingfishers eat small fish from the river. In Africa, animals such as antelopes, lions and elephants go to rivers for water to drink. Other animals such as bears catch fish from rivers.
River deltas have many different species of wildlife. Insects, mammals and birds use the delta for their homes and for food.
Rivers provide travel routes for exploration, commerce and recreation.
River valleys and plains provide fertile soils. Farmers in dry regions irrigate their cropland using water carried by irrigation ditches from nearby rivers.
Rivers are an important energy source. During the early industrial era, mills, shops, and factories were built near fast-flowing rivers where water could be used to power machines. Today steep rivers are still used to power hydroelectric plants and their water turbines.