This year's theme is 'why waste water' and focuses on getting people to stop wasting the valuable resource.
It is estimated that 663 million people live without access to safe water close to their homes. Instead, they must travel long distances or queue for hours to get it. Many also have to cope with contaminated water – and the associated health problems.
The United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22nd as World Water Day in 1993. Since then, campaigns have focused on improving water quality and access to freshwater for people around the world. In 2015 – and as part of the Sustainable Development Goals – a UN Initiative set a target to make sure everyone on the planet has access to safe water by 2030.
It is estimated that by 2030, the demand for water will have increased by 50% – most of which will be from people living in cities. As a result, World Water Day organisers are calling for new approaches to wastewater management.
Facts about waste water:
- At present, more than 80% of wastewater produced is pumped back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
- Despite most of the world's population being expected to live in cities by 2050, most – especially in developing countries – do not have the infrastructure or resources needed to manage wastewater.
- 1.8 billion people (more than a quarter of the world's population) use a source of drinking water that is contaminated by faeces. This places them at risk of a host of deadly diseases including dysentery, cholera and polio.
- It is estimated that unsafe water and poor sanitation kills 842,000 people every year.
- An area of land roughly equivalent to the size of Sri Lanka is irrigated with wastewater or polluted water. This causes health problems in the farmers working on the land, and eventually the people who consume the products they produce.
- Water, sanitation and hygiene could prevent 9.1% of the global disease burden – and an estimated 6.3% of all deaths.
- Improved water sources reduces the number of deaths from diarrhoea by 21%, while improved sanitation can reduce it by 37.5%.
- According to the USGS, the average person uses up to 100 gallons of water per day. 95% of this goes down the drain – meaning each person wastes between 76-95 gallons every day.
- Despite most of the planet being covered by water, most of it is not available for human use. If the Earth's water fitted into a four litre jug, just one tablespoon would be available freshwater.