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Reflections on World Water Day

Our international day to celebrate freshwater, World Water Day, is on 22 March each year. The purpose of World Water Day is to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

For water professionals, it is an opportunity to reflect on what we do: to learn, be inspired and take action for progress.

World Water Day 2018 saw the launch of the new International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable DevelopmentThe Decade highlights the critical role water plays in enabling progress on Agenda 2030: the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

In the context of climate change and other global stressors, water challenges are becoming even harder to address.

As water professionals, we have a good grasp of the immediacy and scale of the tasks we hope to tackle:

  • Limited access to safe water and sanitation
  • Increasing pressure on water resources and ecosystems
  • Exacerbated risk of droughts and floods

The theme for this 26th World Water Day is “Leaving no one behind”.

In the words of the United Nations:

“Today, billions of people are still living without safe water – their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive. Marginalised groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need.”

So this World Water Day calls us to reflect on the reasons why so many people are being left behind.

The Australian Water Association (AWA) and its members are already working on how to overcome some of these barriers to progress by engaging with remote communities, vulnerable customers and gendered disadvantageThe AWA International Program links members with partners in the international water sector, focusing on South-East Asia.

For the last five years, ‘water crises’ and ‘failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation’ have been among the top five global risks (by impact) identified by the World Economic Forum, along with the related risks of ‘rapid and massive spread of infectious diseases’, ‘extreme weather events’ and ‘natural disasters’. The International Decade for Action, launched just one year ago, seeks to accelerate our efforts.

This World Water Day, take a moment to celebrate our freshwater resources and to reflect on what needs to be done, how it could be done better, and what action we, as Australian water professionals, individually and collectively, can take.

Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below.

Suzy Goldsmith is Co-Chair of the AWA’s Sustainable Development Goals Specialist Network.