Today is World Water Day…it is a good reminder that we all should conserve this precious liquid asset that we do often take for granted. Millions of people around the globe don’t have running water in their homes, and even more of then have to work more than a mile to get access to “clean” water. Naturally, the water quality improvement industry is continuing to make access to clean drinking water cheaper and easier. Technologies like Ultrafiltration, ultraviolet irradiation,reverse osmosis, nanofiltration and EDI/CDI are making previously undrinkable water drinkable and at increasingly lower prices. In developed nations, we are improving residential water quality while minimizing discharge and costs of production, but there is still so much more to be done. As end-users we should be mindful of how long we run faucets during routine tasks like dish-washing, dental hygiene, and grooming. Commercial and industrial users should continue to streamline their processes to minimize waste and provide cleaner drain effluent discharge. My personal pet peeve is the proliferation of ornamental grren grass in arid areas like Utah; we need to landscape with xeric plants that are beautiful and beneficial without wasting copious quantities of water. I’m using this day to plug my favorite charity – Water for People please go to their website and contribute to this valuable cause.

Text below is culled from WWD for your reading convenience:

The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water by adopting a resolution.This world day for water was to be observed starting in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development contained in chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21.

States were invited to devote the Day to implement the UN recommendations and set up concrete activities as deemed appropriate in the national context.

The Subcommittee welcomes the assistance offered by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre to contribute to an information network centre in support of the observance of the Day by Governments, as required.

World Water Day – 22 March 2005 – marks the start of a new UN International Decade for Action on water. The Water for Life Decade 2005-2015 will give a high profile to implementing water-related programmes and the participation of women. The UN hopes that the Decade will boost the chances of achieving international water-related goals and the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

Water, gender and poverty

Within Water for Life IRC will focus on water, gender and poverty alleviation.  Water and sanitation are critical factors to alleviate poverty and hunger, for sustainable development, for environmental integrity, and for human health.

Communities have complex priorities for the use of water for economic activity and for household use. Men and women often have different priorities and responsibilities. A gender focus is not simply about ‘involving women’. It is about recognising the roles of men and women, and ensuring that the voices of women, who are mainly responsible for household water but who also want economic activity, are acted on.

The first water decade – from 1981 to 1990 – brought water to over a billion people and sanitation to almost 77 million. But the job was only half done. There are still almost 1.1 billion people without adequate access to water and 2.4 billion without adequate sanitation.

Woman from Sironko District, Uganda

This woman from the Sironko District of Uganda is a true citizen of the 21st century – a multi-tasking manager with daily performance targets. She wakes early to fetch water, store it, distribute it and manage sanitation facilities in the home. She goes to bed long after dark, when the cooking, cleaning, laundering and other chores are done. She probably has more work than her mother, being also responsible today for domestic animals. The 21st century woman participates in community development work, and uses her ‘spare’ time for income generating activities. She lives a high-pressure executive lifestyle, lacking only the income, the status, the holidays, the help in the home, a lifestyle consultant, a retirement date and a pension. Will the action decade –  Water for Life – make a real difference to her life?

Picture from Allen Wekoye, Uganda.

Progress on MDGs too slow

A UN Summit in September 2005 reviewed progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. These include reducing by half the number of people without access to clean water and to safe sanitation by the year 2015. The report will say that progress is too slow, and more needs to be done – but more of what?

While creative technological solutions are certainly needed, the biggest challenges will be to ensure that the poorest people have access to clean water and safe sanitation, to help communities find sustainable ways to manage and pay for water and to develop acceptable ways of introducing safe latrines and of encouraging good hygiene practice.

The lesson of the first water decade is that pipes, cement and infrastructure could not do the job without engaging with people and communities. This remains a challenge for the Water for Life decade.

  • The UN-Water website for the ‘Water for Life’ decade will open in February 2005. Background about the decade can be found at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Ask for details and materials from Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Two United Nations Plaza, Room DC2-2220, New York, NY 10017, USA, fax: + 1-212-963-4260. Please post details of World Water Day events at the website maintained by IRC.