In our modern North American society, who doesn’t take for granted the simple turning of the tap for an abundance of fresh, clean water? But for millions around the world, this is far from the reality.
Those in the west, except for the occasional boil water alert, can’t begin to imagine the hardships that come with water scarcity, or access to only polluted water. And that’s part of the reason why every year, a day is dedicated to bolstering awareness about the challenges of managing the world’s fresh water supply.
Yesterday marked World Water Day, which is observed on March 22nd every year. Organizers describe is as a day to celebrate water. It’s also a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water-related issues and to prepare for how we manage water in the future.
This year, a major theme of the day was about water and the world’s workers.
According to UNWater.org, today almost half of the world’s workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water-related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery.
“Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. Take the example of a young girl who has to walk for hours every day to fetch water for her family. This is a job. But it’s not paid and it’s not recognized.”
As the web site points out, if the delivery of water was ensured, this girl could be in school instead.
Water and sanitation also have a strong impact on workers’ lives and health. Two million work related deaths happen each year. Out of those, 17% are water related (poor quality drinking water, poor sanitation, poor hygiene and related lack of knowledge).
Statistics show that freshwater withdrawals have increased globally by about 1% per year since the 1980s, mainly due to the growing demand in developing countries.
Water resources are also under pressure, with water scarcity affecting around 40% of the global population.
An estimated 663 million people lack ready access to improved sources of drinking water, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
Between 2011 and and 2050, the world population is expected to rise by 33%, growing from seven billion to 9.3 billion and food demand will rise by 70% in the same period.
Without improved efficiency measures, agricultural water consumption is expected to increase by about 20% globally by 2050.
There is much local residents can do as well. We would be foolish to think that we have no responsibility to care for our water supply.
Even the seemingly simple things can make a difference, including checking your toilets and faucets for leaks. Put five or six drops of food colouring in the toilet tank. If, without flushing, the colour begins to appear in the toilet bowl within 30 minutes, a leak exists. Residents can replace your old toilets with low-flow toilets and receive a rebate through the City’s Toilet Rebate Program.
Also, instead of running water from the tap until it’s cold enough to drink, fill a pitcher with water and put it in the fridge for drinking.
Residents can also use a rain barrel. Save treated water by using a rain barrel to collect and store rain that can be used for lawns and landscaping. The City is offering rebates this spring to residents who purchase rain barrels. More information can be found at reddeer.ca/rainbarrels.
Join the 2016 campaign to get informed, engaged and take action. You can also contribute on social media by using the hashtags #WaterIsWork and #WorldWaterDay.