March 22 is World Water Day, a day to honor water and the many vital roles it plays in our lives. Whether we admit it or not, water is often overlooked and trivialized in many parts of the world. But ignorance can be dangerous, and there is more to water than merely being our primary thirst quencher. Taking a day to ponder how important water is to the earth and our lives is a beautiful way to pay tribute to a resource that can often be taken for granted.
World Water Day History
Water is one of the world’s most significant natural resources. Every living thing on earth endlessly depends on it – humans, animals, and plants alike. Water is inevitably needed for many processes, such as food and energy production, health management, individual well-being, and global welfare. Water has been, and continues to be, an indispensable lifeline for many industries since time immemorial.
Water covers over two thirds of the world’s surface, but maintaining access to safe water has become a real challenge over the last century. The ever-increasing pressure brought about by the growing human population and industrial activities diminishes our access to safe, high-quality water. It is up to us to address and resolve these issues to ensure the availability and safety of water for not only ourselves, but for many generations to come.
An international day to celebrate, observe, and increase the awareness among people about the significance of conserving and keeping water accessible and safe was proposed during the 21st schedule of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The day was proposed be celebrated annually on March 22nd across the world. The United Nations General Assembly approved of this movement on December 22, 1992. Twenty-five years ago, on March 22, 1993 the first World Water Day was celebrated.
The UN-Water, a sub-entity that manages all the water and sanitation works of the United Nations, sets the theme for the annual observance, which usually conforms to a present or future challenge. World Water Day’s very first theme was “Water for Cities”, where everyone was urged to avoid using tap water for a whole day. In its succeeding years, UN-Water has tackled many complexities relating to water, such as health, development, disasters, and culture. This year’s theme is entitled Nature for Water (Nature-based Solutions for Water).
The Truth about Water
World Water Day, an international observance day, aims to educate people about water-related issues, most significantly the importance of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). It also aims to inspire everyone, especially those in developed countries, to take a positive action by spreading the word about these issues and contribute by starting to make a change in their daily habits.
Access to safe water is a right for some but not all. In countries such as the United Kingdom, an average person has ready access to more than 100 liters of safe water on a daily basis, most of which is used for flushing the toilet. This is also the case for most developed countries around the world. Unfortunately, access to safe water remains elusive in many developing countries, especially those located in Asia, Africa and Latin America. For example, in Nigeria, a large percentage of the population does not have access to toilets; in Ghana, about 70% of disease in the county is caused by dirty water sources; in Liberia, many slums are still waiting for access to safe drinking water; and in Nicaragua, tap water still poses a high risk for contracting diarrhea.
From a global perspective, there are still about 663 million people who don’t have access to safe and basic drinking water. Diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A and cholera are just some of the diseases that can be acquired from consuming contaminated water, and sadly there are about 1.8 billion people in the world who obtain their drinking water from a contaminated source. According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea caused by poor access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation accounts for some 842,000 deaths each year, and a large percentage of this number are children under the age of five.
There are also social and economic consequences related to the lack of access to safe and basic drinking water. In many of these developing countries, women and children are usually tasked with traveling lengthy distances to gather water from sources that are not even considered safe; these are usually the same water sources that they use for laundry and washing. As a result, women find it hard to obtain employment, while children miss the opportunity to gain an education. These issues can have long-term detrimental effects on their lives.
For still many people in the world, access to safe water is so common that they tend to ignore its importance or fail to acknowledge how lucky they are relative to other populations who suffer from many water-related issues. There is no quick fix when it comes to improving the overall situation of this natural resource, and it is everyone’s obligation to understand that water is not an infinite resource and to recognize our responsibility in its preservation.
World Water Day 2018: Nature for Water
This year’s celebration asks how we can utilize nature itself in overcoming the water-related problems the world is currently facing. Environmental deterioration and global warming are making our water-related problems worse. Natural catastrophes such as floods and dry spells are also becoming more common, and humans are to blame. Our apathy makes it difficult to solve these problems.
This year’s theme aims to bring about awareness regarding nature-based solutions. It encourages looking to nature to address societal and ecological problems. The concept was first introduced in the late 2000s for the purpose of discovering better solutions to alleviate and/or adapt to the changing climate conditions of the world. Additionally, it was also intended to protect biodiversity and advance sustainable livelihoods. Nature-based solutions have five different approaches: Ecosystem Restoration, Infrastructure-related, Ecosystem-based Management, Ecosystem Protection, and Issue-specific Ecosystem-related approaches.
According to the World Water Day Organization, about 70% of the world’s natural wetlands are already irrecoverable, and at least 65% of forested land is already compromised. These issues are compounded by the untreated and unreused wastewater we put into the environment. As such, at least 1.2 billion people today are at risk for climate and environment-related disasters, and this figure could grow to 1.6 billion in the next 30 years.
By restoring the balance of the water cycle, we may be able to reverse climate change and improve not only our health and livelihoods, but also our overall living conditions. Nature-based solutions such as planting more trees and revitalizing wetlands show great potential in solving many of the world’s water problems. This concept is not considered a universal cure, but is perceived to be a more cost-effective solution in the long term than building new and expensive human-managed water treatment plants, pipelines, pumps, ditches, and detention ponds.
Nature-based solutions also have an umbrella effect in that they will not only achieve the objective of improving water, they will also improve the adaptability of cities and countries to various climate challenges such as hurricanes, droughts, and floods as well as other world development problems like food security, land deterioration, and human health.
Ways to Celebrate and Contribute to World Water Day 2018
Many people do not realize that helping nature is easier than you think. There are many small things you can start doing at home, and these small acts, when done collectively, can make a huge impact towards preserving what is left of our precious water and to our world as a whole. Change starts within ourselves, and it is important that we all do our part.
Here are five simple ways in which you can contribute to World Water Day and help others gain access to clean water.
1. Pay attention to how you use water
Water is wasted every time we keep the faucet on while brushing our teeth or the shower on while cleansing our bodies. We also waste more water when we let the faucet run while scrubbing the dishes, or flushing the toilet after every use. We can save a few gallons per day if we start changing these daily habits. When we start paying more attention to how we use water, we will not only contribute to a better environment, but we will also lower out utilities costs as well.
2. Pay attention to how you use electricity
Hot water uses electricity, so the longer you bathe, the higher your electricity consumption. Thus, taking shorter showers is an easy way to reduce energy bills. Also, washing a full load of clothes using cold water and using the shortest appropriate washing cycle can help save both water and electricity. Lastly, always opt for energy-efficient light bulbs and other appliances, and always remember to turn them off or unplug them when not in use.
3. Reduce, reuse and recycle
Instead of pouring it down the drain, the water you use for kitchen activities like washing fruits and vegetables and making pasta can still be used for flushing the toilet or watering the plants you have in your garden. You can also reuse dirty water from an aquarium to make fertilizers as the water contains many helpful bacteria and trace nutrients beneficial to plants. In addition, you can also shower in a plastic basin and use the collected water for things like washing the car and flushing the toilet. Finally, you can avoid using plastic water bottles and instead use a reusable water bottle which offers health benefits, such as the ability to create natural alkaline water.
4. Choose eco-friendly household products
Most household products sold in the market today contain harmful chemicals, and more often than not, these chemicals end up in the watershed. These can harm the many creatures relying on good, clean water to survive, including you! Luckily, there are a lot of DIY household cleaning products that you can make using eco-friendly ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, orange peels/rinds, essential oils and water. Using eco-friendly household products will not only give you a clean house, but also a cleaner conscience! 5. Be mindful of where you dispose your garbage.
Many would never consider throwing their trash into the ocean. However, even the tiniest piece of garbage left in the street can eventually make its way into the sewers that lead to these bodies of water. Most of this garbage (often plastics) contains toxic chemicals, and when accumulated, can deteriorate the water quality and harm the marine animals and other creatures that depend on water to survive. You can help prevent this by disposing of your trash properly and using reusable products where possible.
Start adopting these five simple habits and help make the world a better place for you and many generations to come!
World Water Day is not just an annual observance – use this day as an opportunity to become informed, to inform others, and to become an agent of positive change. Help everyone in the world enjoy this precious natural resource the same way you enjoy it today. Recognize, celebrate and appreciate water before it is too late!
Copper H2O is proud to be a social enterprise which donates a significant portion of its profits to charities that work to supply clean drinking water to communities in need. Learn more about our karma program and our copper water bottles, which have the added effect of helping create natural alkaline water!