From the 18th to the 23rd of March, the 8th World Water Forum is taking place in Brazil. World Water Day falls on the 22nd of March and, this year it is the 25th year of it being held and will be enthusiastically celebrated at the forum. World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water (the UN’s inter-agency collaboration mechanism for all freshwater related issues) in collaboration with governments and partners. It places an important spotlight on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
History of World Water Day
This day was first proposed at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.
Why is there a World Water Day?
Because World Water Day is an international observance, it provides an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate.
Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. There are many local, national, and global water challenges facing our planet. Water demand will increase 55% by 2050 as a result of population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns as well as growing demand from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use. It will continue to grow significantly over the foreseeable future. Environmental damage, coupled with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we observe around the world. The global water cycle is intensifying due to climate change, with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier. Urbanisation, de‐forestation, intensification of agriculture add to these challenges. Degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes worsen floods, drought and water pollution. If we neglect the ecosystems, it is harder to provide everyone with the water we need to survive and thrive. Industrial and domestic demand for water will increase much faster than agricultural demand, although agriculture will remain the largest user overall.
Each year, UN-Water (the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation) sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. 2018’s theme is “Nature for water”. The theme explores how we can use nature to overcome the different water challenges currently facing our planet.
Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. More has to be done with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and, subsequently, improve human health and livelihoods.
NBS use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge), improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs).
Currently, water management remains heavily dominated by traditional, human‐built (i.e. ‘grey’) infrastructure and the enormous potential for NBS remains under‐utilized. NBS include green infrastructure that can substitute, augment, or work in parallel with grey infrastructure in a cost‐effective manner. The goal is to find the most appropriate blend of green and grey investments to maximize benefits and system efficiency while minimizing costs and trade‐offs.
Importance of Sustainable Development Goal 6
This goal, mainly to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030, includes a target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse. Thus, it includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.
The Water Crisis and the OECD Water Governance Principles
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and UN have emphasized the need for dialogue and action on water governance — to focus on changing water behaviours and decisions. Managing and securing access to water for all is not only a question of money, but equally a matter of good governance. The 12 OECD Water Governance Principles provide guidance for governments to design and implement effective, efficient, and inclusive water policies. To date, they have been endorsed by 170+ stakeholder groups or governments.
World Water Development Report 2018
The World Water Development Report (WWDR 2018) Report was launched at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 19 and in conjunction with World Water Day. The report demonstrates how nature‐based solutions (NBS) offer a vital means of moving beyond business‐as‐usual to address many of the world’s water challenges while simultaneously delivering additional benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development. Solutions inspired and supported by nature (“nature-based solutions”) use, or mimic, natural processes to address contemporary water management challenges, improve water security and deliver co-benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development. The 2018 edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR 2018) seeks to inform policy and decision-makers, inside and outside the water community, about the potential of nature-based solutions (NBS) to address contemporary water management challenges across all sectors, and particularly regarding water for agriculture, sustainable cities, disaster risk reduction and improving water quality.
The World Water Development Report can be downloaded here: http://www.unwater.org/publications/world-water-development-report-2018/
Here are two videos with regards to World Water Day:
We often take water for granted. Thus, we must always remember that every day should be World Water Day.