World Water Day is celebrated annually on 22 March – highlighting the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year, World Water Day also falls within the International Year of Water Cooperation, which raises awareness about the importance of water cooperation for security, poverty eradication, social equity and gender equality, economic benefits, building peace, preservation of water resources and for the protection of the environment.
The sustainable management of water can be particularly challenging because water is unevenly distributed across the planet and the water cycle is highly complex with perturbations having multiple effects. Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten water resources while demands for water are increasing as we rely on water for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses.
- Africa is the world´s second-driest continent after Australia.
- About 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid and more than 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment – meaning that they have less than 1,000 m3 per capita per year.
- 115 people in Africa die every hour from diseases linked to poor sanitation, poor hygiene and contaminated water.
- In Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, more than a quarter of the population spends more than half an hour per round trip to collect water.
- There are 276 transboundary river basins in the world (64 transboundary river basins in Africa, 60 in Asia, 68 in Europe, 46 in North America and 38 in South America). One hundred eighty-five out of the 276 transboundary river basins, about two-thirds, are shared by two countries.
- Africa has about one-third of the world’s major international water basins. Virtually all sub-Saharan African countries, as well as Egypt, share at least one international water basin.
Benefits of water cooperation
Water is a shared resource and its management needs to take into account a wide variety of conflicting interests. This provides opportunities for cooperation among users.
The potential for water cooperation is great and its benefits, whether in economic, social or environmental terms, are considerable. All water systems are extremely complex, be they management systems at the local or national level, internationally shared river basins or parts of the natural hydrological cycle. Managing these systems requires multiple actors, from users and managers to experts from various disciplines and decision-makers.
Cooperation is crucial not only to ensure the sustainable and equitable distribution of water but also to foster and maintain peaceful relations within and among communities. At the government level, different ministries can cooperate and mainstream awareness on sustainable water management into other sectors; at the community level users can cooperate through water users’ associations; at the transboundary level joint management institutions can help to distribute and protect shared resources; and at the international level the various UN agencies can work together to promote the sustainable management of water worldwide.
There are various ways you can get involved in celebrating World Water Day: learn, cooperate, share and save.
Source: World Water Day 2013