Rivers are important because they transport water, provide habitat, support economic activities and enable transportation. Rivers provide life-sustaining supplies of water and important nutrients for living organisms around the world, including humans, plants and fish. Large rivers provide power for hydroelectricity and facilitate the movement of people and goods within nations and across borders.
Regardless of location, rivers transport water and nutrients to areas across the earth. They essentially form the basic building blocks of the water cycle by serving as drainage channels for surface water. Rivers also play helping roles in alleviating conditions such as flash floods by absorbing excess water, and they change shape to accommodate changing geographical features of surrounding lands.
Rivers and streams also provide habitat to many organisms, ranging from small, unicellular creatures to insects, vegetation, fish and mammals. Rivers and streams are often breeding grounds for rare and exotic species of plants and trees and serve as home to ducks, beavers, otters and other creatures that build shelters along their shorelines. Rivers also support economic activities: they supply irrigation to enable small- and large-scale farming operations to take place and may generate enough power to create electricity. Rivers also serve as key transportation routes by enabling exploration, recreational activities and commercial ships.