On March 22, World Water Day (WWD) brings greater attention to the devastating health problems created by contaminated and lack of water for millions.  

In United National Environment Program's (UNEP) recent report, "Clearing the Waters: A Focus on Water Quality Solutions", the wellbeing of over 90 million individuals could be vastly improved by  "repairing leaky water and sewage networks can also secure not only supplies but reduce pollution and generate employment. In some developing countries, 50-60 per cent of treated water is lost to leaks and globally an average of 35 per cent is lost. By some estimates, saving just half of this amount would supply water to 90 million people without further investment." Not to mention "an investment of US$20 million in low-cost water technologies, such as drip irrigation and treadle pumps, could lift 100 million poor farming families out of extreme poverty."

Global health and water facts:

  • At least 1.8 million children under five years-old die every year from water-related diseases, or one every 20 seconds
  • More people die as a result of polluted water than are killed by all forms of violence, including wars  
  • Over half of the world's hospital beds are occupied with people suffering from illnesses linked with contaminated water.  
  • Every day, millions of tons of inadequately treated sewage and industrial agricultural wastes are poured into the world's waters

To celebrate WWD, UN organizations and the Government of Kenya brought together a range of stakeholders to address water quality and safety. Here are some highlights:

Adeel Zafar, the chair of UN-Water, said, "Water quality impacts the lives of millions of people worldwide every year - a majority of them under the age of 5. We are happy that this year's World Water Day puts great emphasis on this delicate issue which is so much reflected in the Millennium Development Goals."

Zafar, continued, "The MDGs stress clearly the importance of safe water and sanitation." MDG 7-c target is to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP, said: "Human activity over the past 50 years is responsible for unprecedented pollution, and the quality of the world's water resources is increasingly challenged. World Water Day highlights how the work of improving and sustaining the world's water quality is everyone's responsibility. It may seem like an overwhelming challenge but there are enough solutions where human ingenuity allied to technology and investments in nature's purification systems such as wetlands, forests and mangroves can deliver clean water for a healthy world."  

The Chair of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands said in his keynote speech that "Each year, World Water Day gains more momentum and spurs thousands of local initiatives around the world - in schools, in churches, in communities. Its emphasis on local action is what gives World Water its power and beauty. We know that no single global instrument can ensure our most important common good is saved. Water must be protected locally."  

If you were unable to take part in any of the 275+ worldwide events, consider taking a few minutes to visit UNwater.org or watch WaterCharity.org's World Water Day two and a half minute video: http://www.casttv.com/video/8jdg0z1/world-water-day-video-from-charity-water-video

Save the date and join the Dow Live Earth / Run for Water on April 18, 2010, visit for more information: http://liveearth.org/en/run and hear what Jessica Biel, actress and activist, Pete Wentz, artist and activist, and others have to say about the event: http://watercube.blip.tv/file/2725046/

Additional resources and tools:
"My Friend Boo", a new European cartoon, to educate children on water conservation. Episode, "It's Only Water": http://www.myfriendboo.com/watch.html
Water Cube TV is a vlog devoted to the water and sanitation sector: http://www.watercube.tv
WHO-UNICEF's Joint Monitoring Report, "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water - 2010 Update": http://www.wssinfo.org/download.php?id_document=1289
"Every Drop Matters", a Coca-Cola and UNDP initiative promotes regional, responsible water resource management in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, (FYR of) Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus: http://www.everydropmatters.com/