Today is World Water Day, which celebrates water, raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water and takes action to tackle the global water crisis.
A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Under the theme of Valuing Water, the 2021 campaign aims to create a more thorough awareness of how water is valued by different people in its different contexts. Water means different things to different people.
How is water important to your home and family life, your livelihood, your cultural practices, your well-being, your local environment?
In households, schools and workplaces, water can mean health, hygiene, dignity and productivity.
In cultural, religious and spiritual places, water can mean a connection with creation, community and oneself.
In natural spaces, water can mean peace, harmony and preservation.
The way we value water defines how it is managed and shared. Water’s value is about much more than its cost – water has immense and intricate value for our households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment.
The UN have showcased five different perspectives that should help to focus in on important aspects of water and its uses within society:
1. Valuing water sources – natural water resources and ecosystems.
We should try to put greater importance on protecting the environment to ensure a good quality water supply and build resilience to shocks such as flood and drought.
2. Valuing water infrastructure – storage, treatment and supply.
Water infrastructure stores and moves water to where it is most needed, and helps clean and return it to nature after human use. Where this infrastructure is inadequate, socio-economic development is undermined and ecosystems endangered.
3. Valuing water services – drinking water, sanitation and health services.
The role of water in households, schools, workplaces and health care facilities is critical. Furthermore, water, sanitation and hygiene services also adds value in the form of greater health, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Valuing water as an input to production and socio-economic activity – food and agriculture, energy and industry, business and employment.
For the energy, industry and business sectors, water-related threats such as water scarcity, flooding and climate change can push up costs and disrupt supply chains. Corporate mismanagement of water can damage ecosystems and harm reputations and affect sales.
5. Valuing socio-cultural aspects of water – recreational, cultural and spiritual attributes.
Water can connect us with notions of creation, religion and community. Water in natural spaces can help us feel at peace. It’s an intrinsic part of every culture but the values we attribute to these functions are difficult to quantify or articulate. Economics often considers water to be a resource for practical human usage and pays little or no attention to its socio-cultural, or environmental, value. There is a need to fully understand cultural values around water by involving a more diverse group of stakeholders in water resources management.
This World Water Day should encourage us all to be more mindful of the precious resource that can so easily be taken for granted in the more affluent areas of the world.
Today, water is under extreme threat from a growing population, increasing demands of agriculture and industry, and the worsening impacts of climate change.
By sharing all the different ways water benefits our lives, we can value water properly and safeguard it effectively for everyone.