World Water Day (WWD) has been held on March 22 every year since 1993. World Water Day celebrates water while also raising awareness of the 2.2 billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water. It is about taking steps to address the world’s water crisis. The achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030 is a significant focus of World Water Day.
To mark this day, an overall theme is selected to find ways of advancing discussions and solutions to society’s most pressing water issues. In 2021, the theme “Valuing Water” extended beyond pricing issues to include environmental, social and cultural values that people place on (IISD, 2022).
This year’s event (2022) focused on the importance of freshwater – “Groundwater, Making the invisible visible” (UN, 2022). Groundwater refers to water found in the subsurface hosted by geological formations, like sands and gravels and are found in substantial quantities. The surface runoff often infiltrates beyond the subsurface into the underlying aquifers during rainfall events. Of course, some surface runoff is evaporated back into the atmosphere. The natural recharge of groundwater is also recharged by rivers, snowfall, lakes, and wetlands. Abstracting groundwater involves drilling wells and installing them with mechanised submersible pumps or through shallow hand-dug systems where water is drawn manually. For thousands of years, hand-dug wells and other manual methods of digging a well have existed. Even though mechanised methods are more efficient and effective, people and communities in need of water frequently have no other options.
Contributions to the World Water Day by World Partners and Collaborators in Water Sector
In case you miss out on key discussions and deliberations by stakeholders and organisations in the water sector, we have compiled important messages for selected organisations for this year’s world water day.
As part of the WWD celebrations, At the opening ceremony of the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal, UNESCO, on behalf of UN-Water, launched the United Nations World Water Development Report 2022, titled “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible.” UN flagship Water’s report on water and sanitation issues, the World Water Development Report (WWDR), focuses on a different theme each year.
Based on the work of UN-Water Members and Partners, the report provides an overview of major trends in the state, use, and management of freshwater and sanitation. The report, released on World Water Day, equips decision-makers with the knowledge and tools they need to develop and implement long-term water policies. It also includes best practices and in-depth analyses to help spark new ideas and actions for better stewardship in the water sector and elsewhere.
Regional and global drinking water coverage, 2015–2020 (%)
Key Message UNESCO’s Director-General— Audrey Azoulay,
As the planet adapts to a changing climate and rising population, groundwater will play an essential role in meeting the growing demand for food and drinking water. Yet this essential resource faces serious risks – including inadequate protection and sometimes irreversible pollution.
For all these reasons, on World Water Day 2022, UNESCO is celebrating this essential resource – because better protecting and managing groundwater is our collective responsibility and in our collective interest…”
The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) launched a series of virtual talks on World Water Day 2022, hosted by experts in hydrogeology from around the world.
These discussions cover various topics, from glaciogenic reservoirs to non-governmental organisations working in hydrogeology. They are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goal #6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
Listen to all the discussions by the lead experts in the water sector in the IUGS to obtain a greater view of important highlights.
Humans, livestock, wildlife, vegetation, and ecosystems rely on groundwater to survive. It helps to maintain ecosystems and river flows during dry seasons. It protects against seawater intrusion and sinkholes by preventing ground subsidence. Groundwater is an important part of climate change adaptation, and it is frequently used as a backup source of water during droughts and other natural disasters. We are all reliant on groundwater for our survival. That is why we must be concerned about its long-term viability.
On World Water Day 2022, the IWMI sought to engage a woman professional in the water sector, Dr. Karen Villholth, Principal Researcher, IWMI. The broad discussions provided critical evidence of why we should worry about groundwater.
Groundwater is indispensable for an estimated half billion people in sub-Saharan Africa.”
The 9th World Water Forum was organised by AMCOW in collaboration with the Secretariat of the World Water Forum. The Forum is the world’s largest gathering for accelerating water-related collective action. This was the first time the Forum took place in Sub-Saharan Africa since it was founded by the World Water Council (WWC) in 1997.
The WWC has a tradition of collaborating with a host country to organise the Forum every three years. This time, it collaborated with the Government of Senegal to host the event. Politicians, multilateral institutions, academia, civil society, and the private sector will be among the participants from all levels and sectors. The international water community and key decision-makers will work together to address global water challenges and promote and implement concrete water and sanitation responses and actions in an integrated manner.
National World water Day Activities/Others
This article also recognises county-specific World Water Form activities and celebrations as well as deliberations around sustainable use and management of groundwater.
Key Conclusions and Way Forward of the World Water Day:
Important conclusions included but were not limited to the following:
- A large portion of the water we use for drinking, sanitation, food production, and industrial processes comes from groundwater.
- It’s also critical for ecosystems like wetlands and rivers to function properly.
- We must protect them from overexploitation – extracting more water than is replenished by rain and snow – and the pollution that currently afflicts them, as this can lead to resource depletion, increased processing costs, and, in some cases, the inability to use it.
- Exploring, protecting, and using groundwater sustainably will be critical to surviving and adapting to climate change and meeting the needs of an expanding population.
Specifically, the Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) (FAO, 2022) provided critical remarks as follows:
Groundwater has always been vital, but its importance has been underappreciated. We must protect groundwater from pollution and use it sustainably while balancing people’s and the planet’s needs. The importance of groundwater in agriculture, industry, ecosystems, and climate change adaptation must be reflected in policymaking for sustainable development.
Continuous monitoring of water consumption is required for sustainable groundwater use, particularly in irrigation systems that use non-renewable aquifers. By measuring actual evapotranspiration in near-real-time over large areas, satellite technologies provide cost-effective opportunities for estimating groundwater consumption and abstraction levels.
FAO. (2022). World Water Day 2022 | Land & Water | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Land & Water | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/land-water/events/world-water-day-celebrations/world-water-day-2022/en/
IISD, I. I. of S. D. (2022). Event: World Water Day 2021 | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD. https://sdg.iisd.org:443/events/world-water-day-2021/
UN, U. N. (2022). World Water Day. United Nations; United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/water-day
Dr. Florence Tanui
Groundwater Researcher, and a hydrogeologist
Environmental articles writer