Water is “the driving force of nature”, said Leonardo da Vinci around 500 years ago. It is the most precious element our earth has to offer, yet in the western world, it is taken for granted thanks to ease of accessibility. Elsewhere, in Africa, there are approximately 345 million without any access to water, and a further 780 million people worldwide who can only access unclean, contaminated water. It is unjust that in some countries this vital resource is so scarce whereas in others it’s endlessly available on tap.
In order to draw attention to the importance of available freshwater and to advocate the sustainable management of freshwater resources, The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) designated the 22nd March 1993 as World Water Day by and this date has been celebrated annually ever since. Each year follows a different theme to try and highlight a specific aspect of freshwater. This year’s theme is the International Year of Water Cooperation that aims to focus on water management and how with effective cooperation, at a local or international scale, there could be higher chance of being able to share this valuable resource across the globe.
Water cooperation involves multiple actors; whether that includes building a village water pump in sub-Saharan Africa, which would require local actors to cooperate, or bringing water from a river to irrigate farmland which would involve regional cooperation. However there can be obstacles preventing cooperation, such as cultural and perhaps conflicting needs when using water resources such as a transboundary river basin. If any of the people involved in water management are not harmonious, the ‘cooperation chain’ is then broken and water resources will not be managed in the most effective way and could lead to adverse effects on human lives and the economy.
With more than 3.4 million people dying each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes and with nearly all of these deaths occurring in the developing world, it is crucial to raise awareness of how, with even the smallest amount of cooperation such as a shorter shower, we can all contribute to the number of water-related deaths can be prevented.
For more information on World Water Day please visit the website.