Global Water Challenges: World Water Day

21/03/2018

Sophie Monaco – Environmental Specialist
 
UN Water DayWater is a requirement for life.  It is what distinguishes our planet from all others that we know about.  Water supports human life, growth and economic development.  Water provides healthy ecosystems, sustaining plant and animal populations across the globe.
 
Without water life on earth, as we know it, would be fundamentally different.
 
World Water Day is held on the 22nd of March every year with the aim to raise awareness and attention to the importance of water.
 
Global Water Challenges
Unfortunately, our planet no longer functions the way it once did.  Across the world, people have made decisions regarding how water is managed.  In doing so rivers have become disrupted, groundwater aquifers have been overdrawn, estuaries and wetlands have become degraded and water sources polluted.
 
As a result of these decisions, water challenges have been created that must be addressed at a global scale as well as local scale.  One of the most prominent of these being water security in the form of access to safe drinking water and managing water usage.
 
Water Security
The issue of water security is defined as an acceptable level of water-related risks to human and ecosystems coupled with sufficient water availability to support ecosystems, development and support livelihoods.  The problem we’re facing is that because of poor decision making and water management there might not be sufficient water available.  As other global challenges like over-population, pollution and climate change influence our water sources, water security will become even more important to understand and manage, particularly given we need water to survive.
Tap water

Access to Water

Access to Water
Water which is safe for consumption has been recognised by the United Nations General Assembly as a right of every human being to have sufficient access to.  Yet there are still billions of people who lack access to safely managed drinking sources which are free from contamination and wastewater.  Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene result in health issues and disease.
 
Image Source: Unicef Blogs
Competing Demands
As the global population grows there is an increasing demand to balance the needs of commercial water use and public water use.  Agriculture and energy account for the largest consumers of water globally.  Agriculture alone accounts for 70% of the global water withdrawals used mostly to irrigate food crops.  Balancing water demand and use between commercial and domestic users will be important for water security.
 
Sprinklers
 
Meeting the Challenge
To meet the global challenges of climate change and water security requires new thinking, new research and new technology.  While we might focus research and innovation on sustaining human life, it’s also important that we remember healthy ecosystems also require water.  This means meeting global challenges of water health by appropriately managing wastewater and contaminated discharge to the environment.  New technologies on desalination and retreated wastewater could be vital in managing the competing demands for water between industry, agriculture and domestic use.  In Perth, we’re already using desalination plants to meet some of our water demand.  Across Australia, CSIRO are researching how stormwater and wastewater can be collected for managed aquifer recharge.  But this is just the start of addressing the issues and challenges that are inevitable in our changing world.
 
Water TanksThe Reality Check
As I sit at my desk sipping the refreshing and clean water from our office cooler, it's not until writing this piece that I’ve even considered where that water has come from.  Here I am taking clean drinking water for granted.  It’s very possible that there will be a future where even in Australia clean drinking water is limited.  We each need to do our part to raise awareness of the importance of water and water conservation.
 
For more information on World Water Day see http://worldwaterday.org
 
If you would like to review your organisation water usage or need a system to simply track your water consumption give Integrate Sustainability a call on (08) 9468 0338 or email us at enquiries@integratesustainability.com.au we should be able to assist.
 
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References and other interesting reads

Cosgrove, W. J., and D. P. Loucks (2015), Water management: Current and future challenges and research directions, Water Resources Research, 51, 4823–4839, doi:10.1002/2014WR016869.

United Nations. Water. http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/water/

Johns, C. Why every day should be World Water Day. The Conversation March 19, 2018. https://theconversation.com/why-every-day-should-be-world-water-day-92561 CSIRO. Alternative Water Supplies for Cities. https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/LWF/Areas/Resilient-cities-21C/Urban-water

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