World Water Day is celebrated on 22 March each year, to focus attention of challenges facing freshwater, and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The day was first celebrated in 1993, making this year the 21st anniversary of World Water Day.
In 2013 the day is dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.
The importance of sustainable freshwater management, and cooperation around water supply and availability quickly becomes apparent when we look at some of the current facts and medium term future predictions. Currently, worldwide, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Given the anticipated growth in the world population, food demand is expected to grow by 50% by 2030, while the demand for renewable energy from sources such as hydropower may rise by up to 60%. All these growths, together with an anticipated decrease in water availability in many regions, will lead to ever-increasing competition for water between the different water-consuming sectors such as the energy sector and the agricultural sector. Changes in diet (for example a shift from a starch-based diet to more meat and dairy) places further pressures on water availability, as producing these foodstuffs typically require more water.
The only way to possibly address the above situation is through multinational water cooperation. Many of the largest freshwater basins around the world are shared by more than one country, making sound cooperation critical. Food production and consumption (which can be equated to ‘virtual water’) is also shared across borders, again requiring responsible management and cooperation practices.
Water cooperation includes the sharing and exchange of scientific knowledge, management strategies and best practices, which are all fundamental to achieve sustainable development and protect the environment.
This is not just an issue that needs to be addressed at national, governmental level. Sound water management and cooperation is required at all levels, and as stated on the World Water Day website, “A general engagement, both individual and collective, is required for disseminating knowledge and the awareness of the value of water cooperation at local, national and international scales.”