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article image'World Water Day' - Exploring the nature of water

By Karen Graham     Mar 18, 2018 in Environment
As Cape Town inches towards ‘Zero Hour’ set for July 15, 2018, the real threat of water scarcity is finally hitting millions of people worldwide. Water is essential to life, and not just to quench our thirst. It is vital to every aspect of our lives.
World Water Day is an international observance started in 1993 by the United Nations. The annual 'themed' day focuses attention on the importance of universal access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
This year, World Water Day falls on March 22, 2018, and the theme is "Nature for Water." It seems a very appropriate choice because of the water challenges occurring globally. This year's theme explores how nature can be used to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century.
Climate change and environmental damage are driving the globe's water-related crises - including floods, drought. and water pollution, all made worse by degradation of our soil, vegetation, rivers, and lakes. This situation puts great stress on water sustainability at every level of human existence.
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Facts about water on a global scale
We think of water, first and foremost as a source of liquid nourishment. And yes, the human body needs water in a sufficient amount every day just to survive. However, water is also important to creating jobs, as well as supporting economies, social and human development.
For example, today, over 663 million people do not have a safe water supply close to their homes. They spend countless hours standing in line or trekking to find a safe source of water that isn't contaminated or polluted. From lead exposure in Flint, Michigan, to typhoid fever caused by drinking and bathing in polluted water.
Globally, over 80 percent of our wastewater flows back into the environment untreated or reused. Over 1.8 billion people around the globe use a source of drinking water contaminated with human excrement, or feces - putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.
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UN calls for 'Nature-based Solutions'
Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges, according to the UN press release. We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible. While both types of infrastructure have their roles in water management, it is also important to understand the differences between them.
According to Alberta Water, Green infrastructure is the “strategic use of networks of natural lands, working landscapes, and other open spaces to conserve ecosystem values and functions and provide associated benefits to human populations” Grey infrastructure, as it is related to water management refers to resources like water and wastewater treatment plants, pipelines, and reservoirs.
Both the green and grey infrastructure systems can work together in a harmonious manner with careful planning, and this is where innovation and the technologies we have today can be put to good use. The UN says planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.
This year's World Water Day fits in with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 6 – ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030 - including a target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse.
More about World water day, Water scarcity, Wastewater, Management, innovative technologies
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