The importance of the water for the subsistence of life on the planet

World Water Day is commemorated on March 22 to remember the importance of water in our lives and to raise awareness of the global water crisis. Although all social and economic activities depend to a large extent on the supply and quality of water, 2.2 billion people live without access to safe drinking water.

The idea of celebrating this international day dates back to 1992, the year in which the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro and where the proposal emerged. That same year, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring March 22 every year as World Water Day.

Water and climate change

Water is the primary medium through which we feel the effects of climate change. Water availability is becoming less predictable in many places, and increased incidences of flooding threaten to destroy water points and sanitation facilities and contaminate water sources.

In some regions, droughts are exacerbating water scarcity and thereby negatively impacting people’s health and productivity. Ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable water and sanitation services is a critical climate change mitigation strategy for the years ahead.

Higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable, weather conditions are projected to affect availability and distribution of rainfall, snowmelt, river flows and groundwater, and further deteriorate water quality. Low-income communities, who are already the most vulnerable to any threats to water supply are likely to be worst affected.

Handwashing is a lifesaver

Hand hygiene saves lives. To contain the spread of COVID-19 and many other infectious diseases, it is critically important to clean your hands regularly with water and soap or alcohol-based hand rub.

In the mid 19th century, physician Ignaz Semmelweis discovered how microbial infection works and found that handwashing with soap dramatically reduced the spread of deadly diseases.

However, 1 in 3 people around the world lack a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. One third of healthcare facilities does not have access to hand hygiene where care is provided.

It is estimated that half a million people die each year from diarrhea or acute respiratory infections which could have been prevented with timely and thorough hand hygiene. Around 700 children die every day from diseases linked to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Groundwater: Making the invisible visible

This year the focus of this celebration is on groundwater, which is invisible, but its effects are felt everywhere. Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which are geological formations of rocks, sands and gravels that hold substantial quantities of water. Groundwater feeds springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands, and seeps into oceans. Groundwater is recharged mainly from rain and snowfall infiltrating the ground. Groundwater can be extracted to the surface by pumps and wells.

All life on the planet would not be possible without groundwater. Most arid areas of the world depend entirely on groundwater. Groundwater supplies a large proportion of the water we use for drinking, sanitation, food production and industrial processes. Almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater.

It is also critically important to the healthy functioning of ecosystems, such as wetlands and rivers. About 40 per cent of all the water used for irrigation comes from aquifers.

For all these reasons, we must protect them from overexploitation – abstracting more water than is recharged by rain and snow – and the pollution that currently haunts them, since it can lead to the depletion of this resource, extra-costs of processing it, and sometimes even preventing its use.

Awareness of the importance of protecting and using groundwater in a sustainable manner is essential to survive climate change and meet the needs of an ever-growing population.

Por: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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