“Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.” - Albert Szent-Györgyi
World Water Day is held every year on March 22 and focusses attention on the importance of the availability of clean, safe, reliably sourced freshwater for all people, and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day has been observed since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared 22 March as World Day for Water. This day was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Observance began in 1993 and has grown significantly ever since.
In order for the general public to show support (especially so in Western countries), it is that people not use their taps throughout the whole day. This shows in a very real way what people in some developing countries have to face on a daily basis, where water is a precious resource and no tap water is available.
The UN and its member nations devote this day to implementing UN recommendations and promoting specific activities within their countries regarding the world’s water resources. Each year, one of various UN agencies involved in water issues takes the lead in promoting and coordinating international activities for World Water Day. Since its inception in 2003, UN-Water has been responsible for selecting the theme, messages and lead UN agency for the World Day for Water.
The theme for 2012 is “Water and Food Security”. There are 7 billion people to feed on the planet today and another 2 billion are expected to join by 2050. Statistics say that each of us consumes from 2 to 4 litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: Producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres. Food production is inextricably linked with water and some foods are extremely demanding in terms of the water need to produce them. Eating food that is sustainably produced will also conserve water resources.
A billion people in the world already live in chronic hunger with extremely limited water sources. Freshwater resources are under pressure worldwide and the climate change we are experiencing is also playing havoc with both our food production and management of water resources. We cannot pretend the problem is ‘elsewhere’ – it is with us here and now, and being experienced in almost all countries around the world.
Drought is still the most significant problem throughout the world. Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries. Drought caused more deaths during the last century than any other natural disaster, and Asia and Africa rank first among continents in the number of people directly affected. All human activities use water: Drinking, cooking, washing, but also and mostly, for producing food, paper, clothes, etc.
Water scarcity already affects every continent and more than 40% of the people on our planet. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions. The lack of water limits farmers’ ability to produce enough food to eat or earn a living. South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East for example are already close to their resources limits, and their population is still growing.
Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food and adequate freshwater supplies for everyone calls for a series of actions we can all help with:
- Eat a more environmentally friendly and sustainable diet; it’s healthier for you too!
- Consume less water-intensive products.
- Reduce the shameful food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost.
- Produce more food, of better quality, with less water.
- Do not encourage the bottled water industry where safe, clean drinking water is available on tap.
- Recycle water as much as possible in the home and garden.