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In another instalment of our series on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we look at the necessity of clean and accessible water to raise awareness for the UN’s World Water Day
A Basic Human Right
Sunday the 22nd of March is World Water Day, an annual event organised by the United Nations since 1993. In recent years it has tied into the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” – as part of a global campaign to make fresh water available to everybody across the world.
According to the UN’s 2019 report, at least 785 million people are living without access to a basic drinking water service, and access to water is proving to be one of the biggest issues facing world sustainability in the modern age. In this post we want to highlight the ways that water puts pressure on the fight for sustainability, and outline some of the things that you can do to help
Water, Water Everywhere
While our first thoughts when we think about climate change and sustainability tend to be about greenhouse gases and global warming, climate change and water are closely linked. In a 2009 report by the Carbon Disclosure Project, CEO Paul Dickinson said that “if climate change is the shark, then water is its teeth,” and it’s true that climate change has an impact on access to water all the way throughout the water cycle.
With the modern world exhibiting higher average global temperatures and warmer air, which is able to hold more water, rain patterns are getting increasingly erratic. Weather can now alternate between lengthy dry spells and brief but heavy precipitation with increasing speed. This back and forth produces an unpredictable pattern of rainfall – sometimes called “precipitation backlash” – that makes the supply of rainwater much less reliable and potentially much more dangerous.
And Not A Drop To Drink
Perhaps even more relevant to World Water Day and the world’s supply of freshwater is the dramatic effect that climate change is having on glaciers and mountains. These natural “water towers” are critical headwaters for rivers and freshwater sources, providing more than 50% of the entire world’s supply of freshwater.
As global temperatures rise, mountain glaciers and snowpack are melting at an unprecedented pace, far quicker than they can be naturally restored. If these glaciers melt away completely, then they’re gone forever, and any communities and areas that previously relied on glaciers for freshwater will need to find other sources.
Furthermore, a growing demand for clean water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation and treatment, having knock-on effects in terms of energy usage. Even some climate change mitigation measures, like a more widespread adoption of biofuels, can exacerbate water scarcity even while they fight global warming.
Add these growing shortages and concerns to the already-large areas of the world with poor access to clean washing and drinking water, and the need for action becomes extremely clear.
Joining the Effort
As with most of the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals, the water goal is targeted primarily at governments and policymakers, but World Water Day emphasises the ways that we can get involved in a small and local level.
In addition to campaigning for clean water and supporting water charities worldwide, here are some things that you can do – as a household or as a business – to waste less water and preserve the most valuable resource this planet has to offer.
- Turn off your taps – An obvious tip, but it works. Turning off the taps while you brush your teeth, and making sure your leaky taps are repaired, can save tens of litres of water per week.
- Boil carefully – Boiling only the amount of water that you’ll actually use can save you money and energy as well as water.
- Take shorter showers – Every minute you spend in a power shower uses up to 17 litres of water.
- Reduce food waste – It takes a lot of water to produce our cereal, fruit and other food. More than half of the 7 million tonnes of food and drink UK households bin every year could be eaten; by cutting down on food waste you’re saving water as well as waste.
- Catch rainwater – Installing a water butt in a household can save up to 5,000 litres of water every year.
We’re doing we can here at Bywaters, too. Over the Christmas period, we trialled using captured and cleaned rainwater to wash our bins, which significantly cut down on our own water usage. We have also worked with food waste reduction initiative Foodcycle and sustainable catering outlet Elysia to combat waste wastage and surplus food. World Water Day is all about inspiring individuals and communities to take action against a global problem – what can you do to help?