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Climate Change

World Water Day: A Single Day to Highlight an Everyday Issue

by Judith Arrieta Munguia

March 22nd is World Water Day. It asks us to take individual action so that we live in a water sustainable world. How will you answer this important call?

As you read this, you might be sipping your favorite drink following a long warm shower.  You may have even washed your hands several times, understanding the relevance of this simple act, in the midst of a worldwide health emergency with no precedents in recent times.

The ease of meeting these basic needs has made the value of clean water access unnoticed, almost taken for granted. World Water DayMarch 22, is a unique reminder to incorporate a mindful approach in valuing freshwater in our daily actions, workplace or community.  

It also gives us the opportunity to join a movement, regardless of our age or where we are, to tackle climate change, one of the most pressing challenges we face.

World Water Day emerged in 1993 from the United Nations 1992 Rio de Janerio Conference. The first major event to place the environment into the concept of sustainable development as well as to frame the environment with both an economic and social pillar.

The critical aim of World Water Day is twofold. First, to trigger critical thinking to re-evaluate our daily use of freshwater. Then second, to use this to inspire us to become active contributors for water sustainability in light of the day's 2020 theme: Water and Climate Change.

During 2016-2018, the United Nations and the World Bank supported a High-Level Panel on Water, co-chaired by Mexico, with 10 countries and worldwide experts. This panel utilized thought-provoking evidence to align practical actions towards making a substantial impact on freshwater use around the world.  

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon speaks during the 74th Session of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York on September 28, 2019; Getty Images

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon speaks during the 74th Session of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York on September 28, 2019;

Getty Images

So, what's at stake on World Water Day? Access to clean water points towards two directions. It involves a quantity dimension, while it also evokes the quality of the resource.

Today 2.2 billion people live without safe water. That is as if all of the Americans, Chinese, Brazilians, Russians, and Mexicans could not wake up and accomplish basic needs using clean water as we did this morning. That is almost one in three people on earth without access to safe water. Take a moment to notice which side of this divide you live on.

Moreover, this means that the world's children will live in a world where one in two struggles due to water scarcity, at least one month a year.

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In addition to this sobering trend, access to clean water is one of the most salient effects of climate change: whether it undermines nutrition from poor agricultural harvests due to droughts or floods, losing cities to rising sea levels, or risking health due to rivers or lakes pollution.

However, the United Nations is trying to stop these global challenges. The 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted in 2015 at the United Nations, aims to accomplish 17 goals. Among them, SDG 6 focuses on the availability of water and sanitation, being so crucial for life itself; while SDG 13 calls for action against the impacts of climate change.

Children Playing with Water; Photo by Abigal Keenan on Unsplash

Children Playing with Water;

Photo by Abigal Keenan on Unsplash

So, what can you do? There are many simple actions an individual can make to support these world-wide water sustainability goals.  You can decrease your shower to five minutes, or even better, update your showerhead to a more efficient one. You can contribute to wildlife and ecosystems by starting a plant-based diet or substitute meat with fish from sustainable fishing because agriculture accounts for almost 70% of the world's yearly use of freshwater.  

You can also support social enterprises that strive to expand clean water access to rural and remote communities worldwide.  Regardless of your role in society, you could volunteer, partner with or invest in them.  For instance, Isla Urbana provides rainwater harvesting and purifying systems for left-behind households and Ibyma provides solutions to save, clean and reuse industrial water both are located in Mexico.   

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, share your thoughts, speak out and vote.  Educate yourself on the sustainability practices supported by your local and national politicians.   

World Water Day is a single reminder that we can take individual actions to make our water and our climate more sustainable every day for everyone. Find the right water-based action for you and help make a world of difference. That is what World Water Day is all about.  

Judith Arrieta Munguia is currently Minister of the Mexican Foreign Service at the Office of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. She was the coordinator of advisors for Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She coordinated development, economic and social issues in the missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and in the European Union in Brussels. She was appointed Sous-Sherpa to the High-Level Panel on Water in 2017-2018. She has published several articles on international issues, EU-Mexico relations and the EU-LAC dialogue; new global actors; Mexico’s cooperation policy in the multilateral sphere; and on the global threat of conventional weapons. She holds a BA in Foreign Relations and masters’ degrees in Diplomacy; International Commerce; and International Relations. She has a Doctorate in Political Science.

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