H2O. It’s a critical resource that many of us often take for granted. Yet the world’s freshwater supplies are under threat in many places and there are millions of people who don’t have access to fresh, clean water, while millions more experience regular shortages. Being able to turn on the tap and drink clean water directly from it is a luxury not everyone enjoys.
World Water Day is a UN led initiative that is about celebrating freshwater and drawing attention to the many freshwater related challenges we face globally, from contamination to waste and shortages.
Each year, World Water Day focuses on a distinct water issue. In 2020, World Water Day focused on climate change and water, demonstrating the ways freshwater sources are affected by climate change and advocating ways to manage freshwater sustainably.
In 2021, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, World Water Day focused on achieving Sustainable Development Goal number 6: freshwater and sanitation for everyone by 2030. The 2021 theme for World Water Day was valuing water. UN-Water explains that "water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment."
The Origins of World Water Day
World Water Day was initially proposed during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. At the conference, it was agreed that March 22nd would be declared World Water Day and in the following year, 1993, the first ever World Water Day was observed.
The Earth Summit was a turning point in the fight against climate change. It signified a renewed interest in international cooperation to combat the effects of greenhouse gases and to improve the sustainability of the global economy. For this reason, World Water Day has always focused heavily on developing sustainable approaches to the management of freshwater sources. However, in recent years, the focus has shifted towards personal use of freshwater, particularly in light of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, which inspired a focus on hygiene and hand washing.
World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water. This branch of the UN also releases an annual report, The UN World Water Development Report, that reflects on the state of the world’s freshwater sources each year and is released around the time of World Water Day. The report is a comprehensive overview of freshwater resources globally and examines the various factors affecting the availability and security of freshwater. The report also tracks progress towards the achievement of the water related Millennium Development Goals.
What Happens on World Water Day
UN-Water hosts a ceremony each year in observance of World Water Day on March 22nd. As mentioned earlier, UN-Water also releases an in-depth report on the state of the world’s water resources around the the same time each year.
Along with the official observances, World Water Day events take place all over the world, particularly in schools, where teaching about the value of water is perhaps most important. Events have typically focused on theatre, music, or art, using these creative mediums to express a powerful message about the importance of freshwater.
In recent years, World Water Day has become a social media sensation with millions of people tweeting and sharing World Water Day messages. In 2021, World Water Day was entirely digital and resulted in a veritable deluge of messages on social media platforms around the world as people, young and old, discussed what water means to them.
What to Do on World Water Day
Do you want to participate in making the world a better place? Then get involved on World Water Day. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:
- Share an inspiring message about what water means to you on social media using the following hashtag: #WorldWaterDay.
- Get together with friends and create a play, piece of music, or painting that expresses the importance of water for everyone.
- Write a letter to your local politician encouraging them to support World Water Day and to take action to protect freshwater sources in your local area.
- Learn how to reduce water wastage in your own home and educate your family and friends about how they can reduce water waste too.
- Head to your local beach, lake or river and collect any garbage you find littering the area: rubbish contributes to the contamination of clean water.
- Buy local, organic food grown without water polluting pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers.
- Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products that don’t leave contaminants in the water supply.
The Impact of World Water Day
World Water Day has been putting water on the agenda for more than 3 decades, highlighting the many challenges the world faces in regards to safeguarding the freshwater supply and ensuring adequate access for all.
Officially recognised World Water Day events have also been growing steadily. In 2016 the official UN website listed over 500 events, while in 2017 more than 700 events were registered.
World Water Day Facts
Did you know: Around 11% of the world’s population (790 million people) live without access to regular clean water. What’s more, around 1.8 billion people live without proper sanitation.
Did you know: Unsafe drinking water contributes to 88% of the 800,000 deaths caused by diarrhoea in children under 5.
Did you know: Nearly 97% of all the water in the world is salt water and therefore undrinkable without treatment.
Did you know: Around 68% of the Earth’s freshwater is currently ice and glaciers.
Did you know: Typically, 75% of a tree is water, and adult humans are comprised of 55-60% water.
Did you know: The average home in the United States consumes around 50 gallons (189 litres) of water a day.
Did you know: When frozen, water expands by 9%.
Did you know: While a person can survive without food for around a month, without water a person will likely die within a week.
Did you know: It takes around 1800 gallons (6813 litres) of water to produce 1 pound (0.4kg) of beef, while 150 gallons (567 litres) of water are necessary to make a single loaf of bread.