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Published on 22nd March 2023

World Water Day 22 March 2023: Accelerating Change


Every year since its proposal at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, World Water Day has been observed on 22 March as a way to campaign for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. After the inaugural year of 1993, each successive year has been given a theme to focus the worlds collective minds. The theme in 2022 was ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’, and this year, to mark 30 years of this observance, the theme ‘Accelerating Change’ has been chosen, tying in with the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York.

In 2015, the UN committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 as part of the 2030 Agenda – the promise that everyone would have safely managed water and sanitation by 2030. In 2016, recognising that water is critical for sustainable development and eradication of poverty and hunger, the General Assembly of the UN declared the decade from 2018 – 2028 the International Decade for Action on “Water for Sustainable Development”, and called for a mid-term comprehensive review to take place, hence the New York Water Conference. Its 2023, so we are at the mid term now. And we are seriously off track.

The sad truth is that while access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic human need for health and well-being, hundreds of millions of people across the world, with the majority in the very poorest countries, lack access to these currently. Unless there is an exponential increase in implementation of better management of water resources, we will be counting those lacking safe water in the billions by 2030.

Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – empowering people with time for school and work, and contributing to improved health for women, children, and families around the world.
In poorer parts of the world, women can be disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. The lack of water and sanitation can lock women in a cycle of poverty. Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. When women have access to safe water at home, they can pursue more beyond water collection and their traditional roles. They have time to create, to work and add to their household income.

This last year has shown us with startling clarity that the west isn’t immune to the water crisis. We have watched Ukraine’s water infrastructure devastated by unrelenting hostilities. In Italy last summer the government declared a national drought emergency and issued fines of 500 euros per person to those found misusing drinking water. And the UK saw temporary usage bans issued by multiple water companies last summer, followed by several freeze/thaw events over the winter that gave our aging pipework infrastructure a critical challenge.

To accelerate change, we need more action, and more innovation, now. This is an “everybody problem”. The big players like governments, companies, organizations, institutions, and coalitions need to make some big commitments for significant change at pace, and we need to hold them accountable with where and on what we spend our money, how we vote at the ballot boxes, where we support in the media and respond on social media. And we need to be accountable at an individual and family and employee level as well. We can’t just continue with BAU. We need to accelerate change.

So what actions can individuals take, and what commitments can we make, to play our part in solving this crisis. The UN have come up with some fantastic resources including The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving Water – United Nations Sustainable Development, and a list of personal commitments – which ones will you try:

Save water: Take shorter showers and don’t let the tap run when brushing my teeth, doing dishes and preparing food.

Break taboos: Talk about the critical connection between toilets, water and menstruation.

Flush safe: Fix leaking water and waste pipes, empty full septic tanks and report dumping of sludge.

Stop polluting: Don’t put food waste, oils, medicines and chemicals down my toilet or drains.

Eat local: Buy local, seasonal food and look for products made with less water.

Be curious: Find out where my water comes from and how it is shared, and visit a treatment plant to see how my waste is managed.

Protect nature: Plant a tree or create a raingarden – use natural solutions to reduce the risk of flooding and store water.

Build pressure: Write to my elected representatives about budgets for improving water at home and abroad.

Clean up: Take part in clean-ups of my local rivers, lakes, wetlands or beaches.

The clip below may inspire you further-
Gill Edwards, WUN advocate, skewb.