Today is World Water Day – it is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.
Water is one of our basic resources, but it is often in short supply not only for human use but also for ecological systems. Water shortages are cropping up around the world – from Australia to South Africa, from Brazil to the Sahel. Two fifths of the world’s population face water shortages. Some of the world’s mightiest rivers run dry before reaching the sea. During the coming decades, water scarcity is expected to rise as a result of a rapid increase in the demand for water due to population growth, urbanization and increasing consumption of water per capita.
The world needs nothing less but a blue revolution. We need to radically rethink the way we use water in our daily lives. So what exactly can we do? GES-experts have come to several solutions on how to tackle the problem of water scarcity. One way is to price water and to decouple land ownership and water rights. Access to clean water for drinking and sanitation is a fundamental human right that must be protected. But this human right accounts for a very modest amount of total water use. And while water is a basic right, this does not mean that it does not have to be paid for. Water has to be seen as something that can be valued and ultimately priced.
Also, it may be helpful to educate people – especially children – about the importance of freshwater and the need for its conservation. This education can come from the state or in some parts of the world as well from religious leaders who have access to large numbers of people and can therefore play an important role in promoting social responsibility for water use.
But we also need to improve the ways we use water – and foster water recycling. This could become a major source of water savings in many countries.Domestic water use can be made more efficient by measures ranging from leak repair in municipal systems to the installation of low-flow showerheads. Government support is also desirable to expand the safe reuse of water, especially in agriculture, through improved drainage and water cleanup.
Rapid technological development has increased the efficiency and reduced the cost of water recycling. In Israel for example, more than 50% of annual irrigation water supply comes from recycled water. It is an economic opportunity to use the “waste” – the positive and negative value of substances in reusable water needs a market. Governments play a central role in promoting water reuse and enforcing apropriate quality standards. Water recycling should be widely promoted not only to preserve water availability, but also as a measure to protect the environment.