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  1. 3/19/2010 WORLD WATER DAY IS MARCH 22
  2.  
    World Water Day 2010 will be celebrated by the UN on Monday, March 22.  This year’s theme is “Water Quality” under the slogan “Clean Water for a Healthy World”, and will emphasize that both the quality and the quantity of water resources are at risk. 
     
    The World Water Day 2010 will focus on:
    • Raising awareness about sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being through addressing the increasing water quality challenges in water management and

    • Raising the profile of water quality by encouraging governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to actively engage in proactively addressing water quality e.g. in pollution prevention, clean up and restoration.
     
    Water is the basis of life on earth.  The quality of life directly depends on water quality.  Good water quality sustains healthy ecosystems and leads to improved human well-being.  However, poor water quality affects the environment and human well-being.  According to the UN waterborne diseases cause the death of more than 1.5 million children every year and 2 million tons of sewage and other effluents drain into the world’s waters every day.  The problem is worse in developing countries where over 90% of raw sewage and 70% of untreated industrial wastes are dumped into surface waters.  The quality of water resources is increasingly threatened by pollution.  Human activity over the past 50 years is responsible for unprecedented pollution of water resources in history  It is estimated that over 2.5 billion people globally live without adequate sanitation.
     
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that, “More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war.  These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential.  The world has the know-how to solve these challenges and become better stewards of our water resources.  Water is central to all our development goals…let us protect and sustainably manage our waters for the poor, the vulnerable and for all life on Earth.”
     
    Issues to be discussed on World Water Day include:

    What defines the quality of water?  Water quality is an important parameter touching on all aspects of ecosystems and human well-being such as the health of a community, food to be produced, economic activities, ecosystem health and biodiversity. Therefore, water quality also is influential in determining human poverty, wealth and educational levels.

     

    What is the state of water quality on our planet?  Worldwide water quality is declining mainly due to human activities. Increasing population growth, rapid urbanization, discharge of new pathogens and new chemicals from industries and invasive species are key factors that contribute to the deterioration of water quality. In addition, climate change will further affect water quality. Major risks are the lack of water quality data and monitoring worldwide as well as lack of knowledge about the potential impact of natural and anthropogenic pollutants on the environment and on water quality. The lack of prioritization of water quality in many countries has resulted in decreased allocation of resources, weak institutions and lack of coordination in addressing water quality challenges.

     

    How do population growth, urbanization and industrial production affect water quality?  Deterioration of water quality occurs when existing municipal and industrial water treatment and/or sanitation infrastructure is overloaded or the relevant infrastructure is absent or outdated and waste and waste water are discharged directly into the environment from where they find their way into surface or groundwater. Enhancing and expanding infrastructure can be very costly and therefore in general is not keeping up with rapid development. Waste water management therefore is emerging as a major global challenge. In addition agricultural and industrial production result in new pollution problems that have become one of the biggest challenges facing water resources in many parts of the world.

     

    How does climate change influence water quality?  Climate change and in particular increasing temperatures and changes in hydrological patterns such as droughts and floods will affect water quality and exacerbate water pollution from sediments, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, pathogens, pesticides and salt, as well as thermal pollution. Further, sea-level rise is projected to extend areas of salinisation of groundwater and estuaries and thereby impacting the availability of freshwater for humans and ecosystems in coastal areas. Gaps still exist in the knowledge about the impacts of climate change on water, especially its quality. Although observational data are required for adaptive management, many observational networks are shrinking. There is a need to improve the understanding and modeling of climate changes with respect to the hydrological cycle at scales that is relevant to decision-making. Information about water-related climate change impacts is inadequate, particularly regarding water quality, aquatic ecosystems and groundwater.

     

    How can water quality be sustained?  How can polluted water be treated or purified?  Both in terms of sustainability as well as of investment and affordability, prevention should be the preferred option. Prevention of water pollution must therefore be the first priority to sustain water quality. The other two options are treatment and restoration. While treatment in some cases is necessary in natural environments due to contamination (pollution caused by environmental influences, e.g. arsenic), it usually becomes more complex when tackling pollution caused by human activities. 

    Finally, restoration of water quality that has been degraded usually is expensive, and more costly than prevention since the rehabilitation of a degraded ecosystem actually means to reestablish the natural environment in all its complexity to the original one. 

    Water purification is a service that ecosystems provide, through recycling nutrients, trapping silt, and breaking down waste. Wetlands, for example, can filter out high level of nutrients and toxic substances. On the other hand, ecosystems themselves depend on the availability of adequate water quality.

     

    How does water quality affect human health?  Sufficient quality of water is critical to ensure a healthy environment and human health. The basic requirement per person per day is 20 to 40 liters of water free from harmful contaminants and pathogens for the purposes of drinking and sanitation, rising to 50 liters when bathing and kitchen needs are considered. 

    In many countries, however, the amount of water required daily for drinking and sanitation is not provided in the required quality. Developing countries undergoing rapid urbanization suffer from lack of sewage treatment facilities which results in the contamination of drinking water, thus it becomes a major cause of illness (which impacts poverty and education) and death.  

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year in addition to millions of other cases of illness are associated with lack of access to water that is safe for human consumption. Per year 2,2 million people die as a result of diarrhea most of them are children under the age of five. Human health is severely impacted by water-related diseases (waterborne, water-washed, water-based, and water-related vector-borne infections) as well as by chemical pollution discharged to water.  

    Despite progressive improvement in the provision of sanitation since 1990, providing safe water and sanitation to large parts of the human population remains a challenge. Today, 1.1 billion people around the world still lack access to improved water supply and more than 2.6 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. The most significant gaps exist in sub-Saharan Africa, then to a lesser extent in Western Asia and Eurasia. Improvements in sanitation have been far less in rural areas than in urban areas, and there has been even a decline in the provision of sanitation services in rural areas of Oceania and the former Soviet Union.

     

    Are there any international agreements regarding water quality?  There are no global binding environmental agreements obliging states to safeguard water resources against pollution as this is a national government responsibility. The 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, which provides that international watercourses shall be used balancing the interests of the watercourse States concerned and the adequate protection of the watercourse, has not entered into force yet. However, the importance of protecting freshwater resources has been recognized in international non-binding instruments such as Agenda 21, adopted in 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. In particular, Agenda 21’s Chapter 18 on the Protection of the Quality and Supply of Freshwater Resources: Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water Resources sets as its general objective “to make certain that adequate supplies of water of good quality are maintained for the entire population of this planet, while preserving the hydrological, biological and chemical functions of ecosystems, adapting human activities within the capacity limits of nature and combating vectors of water-related diseases.”

     
    To receive additional information on World Water Day, International Year of Sanitation, activities planned, or how you can get involved, please visit the below organization’s respective websites:
     
    World Water Day
     
    UN Water
     
    World Health Organization
     
    UNICEF