Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Water Challenge

On March 22nd of every year, people from all over the world come together to address water issues and try to provide solutions to the water crisis. World Water Day is a very important day because it serves as a tool that puts water issues from the systematic agenda onto the institutional agenda. To give you a brief history about this special day, it was proposed by the United Nations in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first World Water Day event was observed the following year in March 22nd 1993.

The theme for this year's World Water Day was "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Water Challenge."  The world's population is increasing drastically- it is projected that by the year 2030, the world's population would be over 8.3 billion.  However, population growth does not signify growth in resources- in fact it means that billions of people have to compete for the limited resources available as the demand for fresh water is predicted to increase by 30% and the demand for food and energy  by 50%  as we approach 2030. Moreover, a higher percentage of the population growth is predicted to take place in less developed countries where resources are scarce.  According to UN Water, “93% of the urbanization occurs in poor or developing countries.”

Over the past years, urbanization has been evident in all societies worldwide.  A lot of people have been migrating to urban areas with the hope of finding better opportunities in life as well as improving their standards of living.  Therefore, as population growth increases, the urbanization levels would also skyrocket.  So what does this mean?  Going back to the World Water Day 2011 theme- "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Water Challenge," we face difficult challenges ahead of us.  The world is undergoing a global water crisis and water scarcity will become more prominent over the years as the world's population increases.

"The objective of World Water Day 2011 is to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems."

I believe one of the main issues we should all be concerned with is "how do we effectively manage our water systems?”  Water management is one of the main challenges faced by cities and the world as a whole.  Another important challenge mainly experienced by cities is “waste management.”  A number of cities in developing nations are yet to find sustainable solutions to solve urban sanitation problems; inefficient sanitation facilities often negatively impact health and the environment.

Although World Water Day 2011 was celebrated worldwide, the formal events took place in Cape Town, South Africa from March 20th to 22nd 2011.  The following is a quote from Joan Clos, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of  UN-HABITAT.

“The urban water challenge must be recognised for what it really is – a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management, rather than a scarcity crisis. We need to shore up water security against the added problems of pollution, and climate change. We need innovative ideas and good practices to implement. Why, for instance, use drinkable water in our toilets? But most of all cities need sound policies and the political will to back them up. They must have strengthened institutions and trained managers to run them. They need a responsible business sector and an enlightened public sector to work hand in hand. And they must have an informed public with the active participation of the communities most in need.”

It is important for all of us-students, schools, governments, non-profit organizations, communities, and the general public - to work together in conserving our water and coming up with sustainable solutions to the global water crisis.  It is also important for us to realize that there is no one fixed solution to the water problems, but rather there are different approaches that can be used in solving water issues in different parts of the world- a solution that works well in one part of the world does not guarantee the same results in another part of the world.  Without water, I wouldn't be writing this article today and you wouldn't be reading what I wrote either because we would all be wiped out off the surface of the earth. So why don't we all put our hands together and make the world a better place by fighting for and protecting our WATER.  Let's make every day a World Water Day!