Freshwater is pure water with low concentrations of natural salts. Most of the world’s freshwater is locked in icecaps and glaciers. Unpolluted and freshwater accounts for a very small percentage of the world’s total available water. But what regions of the world contain the most freshwater?
Discover the 19 countries with the most freshwater resources. Learn how much water they contain and where you can find them.
Greenland ranks number one for renewable internal freshwater resources per capita. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contain 68% of Earth’s total fresh water and 90% of the world’s total surface fresh water. Greenland is also renowned for having some of the purest water around the globe, with most of its drinking water coming from glacier meltwater.
Like Greenland, Iceland has abundant supplies of freshwater, both groundwater and surface water. Along with glaciers and ice sheets, this country has abundant lakes and rivers. Most of Iceland’s drinking water originates from groundwater, approximately 96%, and the rivers that flow from the highlands to the sea have major hydropower potential.
The Amazon River runs through nearly half of the country’s area and accounts for 68% of its freshwater resources. In total, Brazil holds 20% of the world’s water supply and about 12% of the world’s surface water resources. Most of the country’s water is in uninhabited areas and protected zones.
Russia contains one fifth of the world’s freshwater reserve. However, its supply is shrinking due to climate change. With two million lakes and more than 200,000 rivers, this northern country is rich in water resources. In fact, 70% of Russia’s drinking water comes from surface water, with the rest coming from groundwater.
The United States contains more than 7% of global renewable freshwater resources, with the majority of its freshwater bodies coming from lakes. Around 77% of America’s freshwater originates from the surface, while more than 20% is from groundwater. Along with lakes, America has many streams, rivers, wetlands, creeks, and reservoirs.
Canada possesses one of the largest renewable supplies of freshwater, with estimates of around 20% of the world’s total resources. More than 99% of the country’s total area has access to fresh, clean water. Its water yield comes from melted ice and rain that flows into Canada’s many lakes and rivers.
About 6% of global renewable freshwater resources lie within China, with the most recent resources amounting to 2.7 trillion cubic meters in 2022. 50% of Eastern China’s drinking water comes from reservoirs and other resources come from annual run-off and groundwater recharge.
While only 73% of its population has access to clean water, Colombia has some of the largest freshwater resources. Water pollution is a major problem in the country, which affects ecosystems and drinking water. Most of Colombia’s freshwater aquifers are in the Amazon Basin, where the population is scarce.
Similar to Colombia, Indonesia has abundant freshwater where population density is low. While the country is rich in freshwater, its distribution is uneven. However, Indonesia has made major strides over the last decade to increase access to its freshwater. Freshwater in Indonesia comes from swamps, rivers, lakes, and groundwater.
While India houses 18% of the world’s population, it only contains 4% of the Earth’s freshwater resources. Despite being one of the countries with the most freshwater resources, India’s citizens are water-stressed. Roughly 60% of India’s renewable surface water comes from the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins, while groundwater resources cover around one third.
Peru accounts for about 4% of the world’s annual renewable water resources and has annual per capita availability of more than 68,000 cubic meters. Most of the country’s freshwater comes from its 159 river basins by way of tributaries, such as the Amazon River. Over 98% of its water is east of the Andes Mountains.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The DRC holds over 50% of Africa’s water reserves. Its abundance in freshwater comes from the Congo Basin. Despite its water abundance, the Congolese population doesn’t have access to fresh drinking water due to lack of infrastructure. The Congo Basin covers most of the DRC and is of global significance.
Uganda features significant water resources from surface and ground waters. The country is part of the Great Lakes region of Africa, where it contains Lake Victoria and several other major lakes. The Nile River also runs through part of Uganda. Sixty-one percent of its water is from the ground via springs and boreholes surrounding Lake Victoria.
For such a small country, Bangladesh contain a large amount of fresh water on its surface, including the Ganges, Meghna, and Brahmaputra rivers, which originate in other countries and flow through the area. Unfortunately, the country deals with significant pollution of its surface and ground waters. Bangladesh also has major groundwater resources due to heavy rainfall and seasonal flooding.
Myanmar contains four major rivers, lakes, ponds, falls, springs, and dams, making it one of the most water-rich countries in the world. The country also features a significant north to south river that provides freshwater to fisheries, both brackish and fresh.
Southern Chile is known for its water-rich resources, including its outstanding water supply for residents and sanitation systems. Nearly 99% of Chile residents have access to clean drinking water. The Maipo Watershed collects water from the Andes Mountains, which the country uses for its citizens, agriculture, and other businesses.
Nigeria has vast freshwater resources, but it is subject to seasonal variability. Its water resources are also not evenly distributed amongst the regions. The country has extensive resources in surface water, including the Niger and Benue Rivers and tributaries. Rural areas heavily rely on groundwater.
Vietnam contains 3,450 rivers, more than 100 river basins, and numerous streams. More than 80% of its total water production goes into its agricultural industry. Its primary water supply comes from surface flows of rivers and aquifers, such as the Red River and Mekong River.
Argentina has total renewable water resources of 814 billion cubic meters and is home to one of the world’s largest water basins – Rio de la Plata River Basin. Important rivers of Argentina include the Negro, Uruguay, and Parana Rivers. Most of Argentina is arid land, and the La Plata River Basin accounts for 85% of the country’s surface water.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © ABCDstock/Shutterstock.com
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