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Turn celebration into action

March 22 is World Water Day, and in 2022 the spotlight is on groundwater. According to the UN World Water Day official organization:

“Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere. Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is a hidden treasure that enriches our lives. Almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater. As climate change gets worse, groundwater will become more and more critical. We need to work together to sustainably manage this precious resource. Groundwater may be out of sight, but it must not be out of mind.”

World Water Day, observed on March 22 every year since 1993, celebrates water while raising awareness of the need to tackle the world water crisis, ensuring all human beings can have access to quality water. Today, more than 2.2 billion people do not; that is nearly 3 out of every 10 people. World Water Day sheds light on the inequality of access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) services and the need to ensure the human right to water and sanitation.

The world’s unequal access to WASH:

world water day access to water

2.2 billion people have no access to safe water

*Total World population

world water day sanitation

26% of the world population do not have basic sanitation facilities (toilets or latrines)

world water day darrhoeal deaths

432,000 diarrheal deaths annually are caused by inadequate sanitation

*1 : 100 000

world water day waste water

10% of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sanitation

Origins of World Water Day

The idea for World Water Day goes back to June 1992, when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The primary objective of the Rio Earth Summit was to produce a new blueprint for international action on environmental and developmental issues that would help guide international cooperation and new policies in the twenty-first century.

One of the major results of the UNCED was Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, governments, and other major groups.

This agenda gathered new strategies on:

  • Education
  • Preservation of natural resources
  • Investment for overall sustainable development

The UNCED has also influenced different events and actions to raise awareness, such as the decision adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to declare March 22 World Water Day. 

Why celebrate an international water day?

International days are an opportunity to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, while also celebrating and reinforcing human achievement.

UN-Water is the convener for World Water Day and the entity that mobilizes organizations of all kinds, both globally and locally.

In consultation with other UN organizations, it selects the annual theme to focus on each year. UN-Water also tackles relevant issues related to water, such as scarcity, pollution, inadequate supply, lack of sanitation, and the impacts of climate change. As mentioned, this year’s theme is “Groundwater.”

As part of World Water Day, people are invited to take part in a challenge by sharing their #MyGroundwaterStory in a 60-second video. Watch this video for full details:

Towards a circular economy

Newsha Ajami, PhD, Chief Strategy and Development Officer for Research at the Berkeley Lab Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA), explains how World Water Day is an opportunity for us to revisit our relationship with water. Instead of considering water consumption in terms of abundance, Dr. Ajami encourages us to think in terms of a circular economy where water is reused for needs that don’t require high quality water such as flushing a toilet our watering a lawn.

Newsha Ajamai, PhD - Chief Strategy and Development Officer for Research - Berkeley Lab Earth

The percentage of water that we use on a daily basis that is actually part of our essential needs, what we need to be super clean and pristine, is not that big. The rest of that water does not need to be high quality water. Unless we create a circular economy, we can’t really accomplish becoming more efficient with the way we use water.

Newsha Ajamai, PhDChief Strategy and Development Officer for Research - Berkeley Lab Earth

Do international days actually achieve their goals?

According to Elisa Stefan, Environmental Engineer, Researcher and Water Resources Management Specialist, “beyond romantic articles about how water is essential to life, the World Water Day is paramount to reflect on how far we are from world water safety. In many cities, water crises are becoming more frequent and urban rivers are dead. 790 million people (11% of the world’s population) are without access to an improved water supply. This is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to change and start to act.

Having an international day means having a space in the media agenda for raising awareness of the challenge to generate a plan for a solution.

world water day engineers

Group of engineers building a drainage system

According to Tom Freyberg, Director at Atlantean Media, “We will not reach Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation for all by 2030) unless there is a coordinated effort between multiple stakeholders. We need a collective bias for action: not tomorrow, not for 2050, but today. Given the scale of the challenge ahead of us, we need every day to be a World Water Day.”

In this context, technology can be the best ally. Nowadays, gallons and gallons of treated water are lost due to inefficient water management. But using artificial intelligence to gather information and produce predictive analytics to make better decisions can be one of the best solutions possible.

So, if we are to guarantee quality water access to every human being, it’s time to translate celebration into action.

Given the scale of the challenge ahead of us, we need every day to be a World Water Day.

Tom FreybergFounder & Director of Atlantean Media
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