Wondering About Water on World Water Day

Today is the 19th annual World Water Day (WWD), and this year’s theme “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge” encourages governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to address the challenge of urban water management.

WWD highlights the global issues of rapid urban population growth; industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change; resource scarcity conflicts; impacts of natural disasters on urban water systems; and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources and water quality.

Sadly, World Water Day comes in the wake of nearly 2.5 million Japanese households being deprived of access to freshwater due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami only 10 days ago. (AWWA comments on Japanese water condition at www.awwa.org)

Of course, water quality means different things to different people. From water treatment and purification, to new technologies for water re-use and recycling, to pollution. The wide potential for interpretation drives debate and innovation for water challenges and management.

Water challenges are multidimensional and inextricably linked to other emerging issues. There is an urgent need to highlight water as the nexus among human security, economic development and environmental sustainability.  Because water is a natural resource, social asset, and an economic necessity, water governance depends on cooperation between organizations and agencies, national governments and local authorities, science, business, and even individuals such as you and I.

Coordinating these disparate stakeholders is virtually impossible. They all have different and sometimes competing economic imperatives, institutional goals, and decision-making infrastructures.

Water diplomacy should aim to promote global responsibility and to find common ground for collaborating on the resolution of water challenges.

That’s a lot to wonder about water on World Water Day 2011,but that’s what World Water Day is for.


World Water Facts

  • Over 1 billion people don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. Almost none of them reside in the US. (Refer to Egypt blog post)
    • 4,500 children die every day from water scarcity and quality issues.
    • We are paying 2 to 4 times the cost of gasoline for a product that is virtually free. Huh? I don’t understand the economics… water is less than $4.00 gal.
    • U.S. consumers pay between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water.  10,000 times?
    • The urban poor pay up to 50 times more for a liter of water than their richer neighbors, since they often have to buy their water from private vendors. In the U.S.?
    • Every day, 2 million tons of human waste is disposed of in public water.
    • In many cities, especially in the developing world, the lack of convenient wastewater treatment and drainage facilities lead to pollution of the ground-and surface water resources.
    • Contaminated drinking water results in cholera epidemics, diseases such as diarrhea, and outbreaks of malaria.
    • While malaria was often considered a rural disease, it is now among the main causes of illness and death in many urban areas.
    • Leakage-loss rates of 50% are not uncommon in urban distribution systems.

Thanks to the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) publication at “Water and Cities: Facts and Figures” for some of the facts.