On World Water Day, remember what water means

24/03/2014 at 11:18 am 1 comment


Guest blog by Fionnagh Nally

Last Saturday, March 22nd, marked World Water Day. Access to water is an increasingly important issue. Water is crucial for sustaining life – after all, without water, we could only survive a day or so. And yet, around the world, water sources are under increasing pressure. Access to water remains highly unequal.

Our planet is mostly water. However, most of that water is in the oceans. It is freshwater, not salt water, which we need for living and growing. Factors such as Climate Change and rising global temperatures threaten natural water sources. Areas such as the Sahel face longer and more severe drought periods. An increase in the frequency of extreme weather events has led to natural disasters such as floods, typhoons and storms, at times contaminating existing water sources.

Industry and agriculture both heavily depend on water. Industry requires vast volumes of water to meet the production needs of a developing world. Our growing global population requires agriculture to keep pace with more and more hungry mouths to feed. All this limited the amount of safe, available water for consumption.

It is surprising sometimes, how little we understand about water in the western world. Here in Ireland, water shortages are a rarity. I asked a class of school children earlier where their water came from. They answered that it came from the tap. Beyond that, they weren’t sure. Access to water is almost taken for granted. It’s there when we flush our toilets. It’s there when we get in our showers. In many houses, it’s even safe to drink, straight from the tap. In our supermarkets, we can buy cheap bottled water.


It’s easy to forget that not everyone enjoys the same access to water. As I write this, women and children across the developing world, are walking to water sources, to rivers, to wells, to bore holes, sometimes miles away, to collect water in plastic containers, which they will carry back to their households. Globally, women spend 200 million hours a day collecting water.

Some will be forced to use water that they know is not clean and not safe. Some will have no other option but to use water from unprotected sources which will make them and their children sick. Some children will get diarrhoea from drinking unsafe water. Around the world, every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water related illness.

In Tanzania, 60% of the rural population lack access to a protected water source. Concern has been working in Tanzania since 1998 and they have formed a partnership with Charity:Water to address this problem. Together they work with communities to find ways to provide water so hours of the day are not lost to water collection. A nearby well or pump can free time and give a child the chance to go to school instead. It can mean a mother has more time to care for her family and for growing food. It can raise the income of the household.

In Tanzania and across Africa, Concern is working to provide protected water sources through solar powered pumps, bore holes and teaching school children to harvest rainwater. Less water related diseases mean less money on doctors and hospital. Access to a nearby source of clean water can mean a significant improvement in people’s daily lives.

So on World Water Day, each time you turn the tap, remember what water means and how important it is to us all.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Anne Chia  |  24/03/2014 at 11:40 am

    As someone who actually experienced fetching water and carrying buckets for a quarter of a mile from the stream to the house once in a while when the water tanker did not deliver, I know exactly how much access to water is a huge issue in the developing world. Some families were not as lucky and had to fetch water from the stream daily; walking miles and miles to do this. The individuals and groups who work in the areas of water and WASH deserve our respect and gratitude. Great post


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