March 22nd 2019 is World Water Day and this year’s theme is ‘Leaving no one behind’, recognising that water is available and sustainably managed for everyone around the world to use. Ensuring that everyone has access to clean water is Sustainable Development Goal 6, with the United Nations hoping to ensure this by 2030.
Here are just a few troubling facts that show why recognising World Water Day is important:
- More than 700 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation
- 80% of people around the world who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas
- Approximately 159 million people collect their water from surface water, such as ponds and streams
- One in four primary schools have no drinking water service, with pupils using unprotected sources or going thirsty
The largest majority of those that are currently without access to safe water can be found in the global south, including South America, Africa, parts of South East Asia. These areas are not only having to deal with ensuring everyone has access to clean water but ensuring that there will be a future water resource available that will not be put under stress by a growing population or climate change (for example). It’s a global problem, and ensuring that nobody gets left behind includes those in the future too.
Even in a country as developed as the USA, ensuring the everyone has access to clean water is still a major problem. Flint, Michigan, is just one place that hasn’t had that right, and so little has been done to solve the problem. Back in 2014, residents began complaining that tap water looked, smelt and tasted funny.
Since then, high levels of lead were discovered in the water supply to the city and only now is the water supply beginning to return to normal. During this time there was a free bottled water program for residents affected by the water crisis. It was a temporary solution to a major problem, but I can’t imagine the amount of plastic waste the program produced…
Future Water Resources
Ensuring that everyone has access to clean water is just one part of the problem. Sustaining a clean water supply is another. Around 4 billion people in various countries around the world experience severe water shortages and must very carefully manage what supply they do have. By 2030, 700 million people around the world could be forced to leave their homes due to intense water scarcity.
Take Cape Town, South Africa, as an example. Just last year the city was days away from running completely dry. The combination of a long period of drought affecting the western city and the mismanagement of water supplies left residents limited to just 25 litres of water each day at the height of the crisis, which had to be collected from one of 149 taps around the city. Fortunately, heavy rains in the winter of 2018 helped alleviate the crisis although some restrictions do still remain in place.
Even in the UK where it feels like it rains almost every other day, we are on course to encounter regular water shortages in the next 25 years. Without sustainably managing water resources, areas of the UK could require transferring water across regions. There are also calls to increase the number of reservoirs in the UK and building new desalination plants to satisfy the growing population in a drying a climate.
What Can You Do?
Wherever you are in the world, using water more efficiently and less where possible is important. With climate change and other growing pressures on global freshwater sources, the ability to conserve and sustainably manage water resources will become increasingly important. Below is just seven ways you can save water around the home:
- More than 3 billion litres of water is lost to leaks every day. Stopping these leaks can save a huge amount of water from going to waste and reduce the amount you pay for water!
- Installing dual flush toilets can save more than half on a full flush and two-thirds on an economy flush compared to the 13 litres used by a traditional toilet.
- Power showers are very inefficient, often using more water than a bath. Switching to a water-efficient showerhead can save a lot in comparison
- Water efficient dishwashers can dramatically reduce the amount of water used whilst washing up — as long as the dishwasher is full!
- Attaching aerators to household taps add air to the water that comes out of your tap, reducing the amount used and the amount wasted with splashing
- A lot of water can be saved in the garden just by watering plants in the evening. This way plants have the opportunity to absorb water over a number of hours and water is not lost to evaporation.
- Water butts are also a great way to harvest and store rainwater that can be used to water plants in gardens during drier weather.
There is plenty more we can all do to reduce our water consumption, but starting somewhere is the most important step. Just small changes can make a big difference, so on this World Water Day be thankful that you have access to a clean water supply and work on being more efficient with how much you use.
Originally published at thinksustainabilityblog.com on March 22, 2019.