World Water Day 2021: the Value of Safe Water for All

Every year, World Water Day is held on the 22nd of March. It is a day in which we celebrate water and reflect on the importance of this resource. In our first blog post, RESULTS Manchester reflect on what water means to them, and the challenges we face globally in achieving safe water and sanitation for all. 

We know that water is essential for all life forms – it provides sustenance and is a part of our everyday life. It is crucial for the human development and economic growth of our society. However, water scarcity is, unfortunately, a real issue in many countries. Therefore, one of the main focuses of World Water Day is raising awareness of the.2 billion people that do not have access to safe water. It is only fair that we take action and tackle this crisis as a global community. We need to think about the value of water and reflect on whether we are using it unsparingly. By doing so, we move towards attaining safe water and sanitation for all and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6. In honor of this, the theme of World Water Day 2021 (#WorldWaterDay and #Water2Me) is valuing water. ‘Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone’ (World Water Day, 2021). 

What Does Water Mean To You?

It could be something as vital as washing your hands to stay safe in the pandemic? Maybe it’s something as simple as replacing the water in a vase of flowers given to you by your significant other? Take a moment to consider what water means to your life. 

We asked some RESULTS Manchester members what water means to them: 

  • To me, water means comfort and relief. For example, a warm bath when I’m tired or feeling down never fails to soothe me. A drink of water after a long day never fails to refresh me. It’s just one of those things that is so intrinsically part of my existence that I can’t imagine my life without it. (Maryam)
  • To me, water means swimming. I took up swimming a few years ago as a way to de-stress and refocus my mind. I think it’s a great way to get fit and to improve your mental health at the same time. I can’t wait to get back into it when swimming pools reopen! (Jess)
  • Drinking a large glass of water is the first thing I do as soon as I wake up. It provides me with a refreshing, invigorating and energising start to the day. It represents life, as I use it for growing plants in my garden for food and to encourage wildlife to visit (Cameron)

    Water and Sanitation: The Need to Meet Sustainable Development Goal 6

After expressing what water means to us, it is important to understand and appreciate the fact that the UK population has access to safely managed drinking water. Our relationship with water is very different to the 2.2 billion people who do not have the same privilege. To us, water may mean washing our hands to stay safe from COVID-19, having to run for the bus in the pouring rain, or even a glass of ice-cold water on a hot day: it is too easy to take water for granted. For too many people living in the Global South, the struggle for clean water can only represent the difference between life and death, and failure to tackle the effects of the ongoing climate crisis will only make the situation worse: by 2050, 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month of the year. 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water, whilst 1 in 2 do not have access to safe sanitation. Water is a finite resource – just 0.3% of the water on Earth is accessible to humans. This is enough to sustain the global population, but, like so many other vital resources, it is not distributed evenly. Every day, over 800 children die due to poor water and lack of sanitation. These deaths are preventable. 

We need to work together to recognise the value of water and the threat the climate crisis could pose to its availability, whilst helping to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. (All statistics sourced from the United Nations Website)

Often, domestic water saving measures are presented as the key solution to the water crisis. But, whilst taking shorter showers and turning off the tap while you brush your teeth is helpful, the water crisis is not about water itself. It is about how water is valued and distributed, how it is subsidised for agriculture and incentivised for consumption and pollution. It is about how water is seen as a commodity, rather than a human right and a common good. This is why UN sustainable development Goal 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

One lifeline is overseas aid. The UK has historically played a leading role in developing access to water, sanitation and hygiene worldwide through development programmes and UK aid. However, the UK government has recently proposed to cut the aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%, depriving vulnerable populations of around £5 billion which could be put towards – amongst other poverty alleviation measures – clean water infrastructure and safe sanitation facilities. It’s therefore vital that we protect the UK aid budget in order to achieve SDG 6.

What Can You Do?

 It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated by the challenges and information presented here. But together, we can make a change. We can educate our friends, families, communities and ourselves on the immense value of water as well as the small steps we can each take to conserve it

By getting involved in events such as World Water Day and leading by example, we can help to show people that a world water crisis is a global emergency that affects all of us.

To get you started we have provided some helpful tips and links on how you can celebrate World water Day:

  1. Keep an eye on the World Water Day website for the upcoming #Water2me report.
  2. Calculate your water footprint and take steps to reduce it here.
  3. reducing your meat and dairy intake can drastically reduce your water usage. For an easily digestible, ready to share infographic on the links between diet and environmental impact see here.
  4. Call on companies to publish their climate impact. (Plant-based milk alternative company, Oatly is just one of those already doing this) 
  5. It doesn’t stop here! Mark your calendars for World Water Week in August! 
  6. And finally, join RESULTS UK in working towards a world free from poverty:

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