So, ‘World (Fresh) Water Day’ is upon us once again – and...

Karl Lyimo

TODAY is the World Water Day, dedicated for special attention on the importance of freshwater – and advocating for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Permit me, o’esteemed reader, to stress that the concept is about ‘fresh’ water, NOT all water – much of which isn’t ‘fresh!’ Generally-speaking, ‘freshwater’ is ‘water that’s not salty – especially when considered as a natural resource!’

The term definitively doesn’t include seawater, a.k.a. saltwater! About 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, with the oceans holding about 96.5 per cent of the water.

Water also exists in the air as water vapour; in rivers and lakes; in icecaps and glaciers; in the ground (as soil moisture/wetlands and in aquifers) – and in living ‘bodies,’ including humans, animals and plants! According to Wikipedia, most water in the Earth’s atmosphere and crust comes from saline seawater in the oceans and seas.

Such water has an average salinity of 3.5%: roughly 34 grammes of salts in one kilogramme of seawater – varying slightly according to the amount of runoff from surrounding land. In all, water from oceans and marginal seas, as well as saline groundwater and water from saline ‘closed’ lakes, amount to over 97.5 per cent of the water on Earth.

Thus, freshwater accounts for only 2.5 per cent of the world’s total water! Also, an estimated 1.5- to-11 times the amount of water in the oceans may be found hundreds of miles deep within the Earth’s interior – although not in liquid form!

So, the total volume of water on Earth is estimated at 1.386bn km³ (333m cubic miles) – with a relatively measly 2.5 per cent being fresh... Again, only 0.3 per cent of freshwater is in liquid form on the Earth’s surface.

Indeed, the lower mantle of the Inner Earth may hold as much as five-times more water than all the surface water combined: all oceans, lakes and rivers... Sheesh! But, no matter! Having perforce blinded my esteemed readers with science – compliments of the ubiquitous Internet – let’s get back to today’s topic: World Water Day (WWD)! Historians tell us that the UN Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED) which met in Rio, Brazil, in Year-1992, recommended creation of an ‘International Day to celebrate freshwater.’

[See Chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of UNCED Agenda-21]. What with one thing leading to another, the UN General Assembly responded to the UNCED recommendation with alacrity, designating March 22, 1993 as the first ‘World Water Day!’ (UN Resolution A/ RES/47/193 of December 22, 1992).

In the event, UN Member Nations were “invited to devote the Day to concrete activities as appropriate within the national context – such as the promotion of public awareness through the production and dissemination of documentaries, (as well as) the organization of conferences, roundtables, seminars and expositions related to the conservation and development of water resources, in addition to implementing the Agenda-21 recommendations.

” WWD is also used to highlight required improvements for access to WaSH (‘Water; Sanitation; Hygiene’) facilities in developing countries. UN-Water (the entity that coordinates UN’s work on Water and Sanitation) sets themes for WWD corresponding to current or future challenges, and which highlight a specific freshwater aspect.

This year’s theme – for what it’s worth – is ‘WASTEWATER!’ In all fairness – and, without an iota of prejudice – it must be stated here that there’s a world of a difference between ‘freshwater’ and ‘clean, safe water!’ Sometimes simply referred to as ‘tap,’ ‘drinking,’ ‘potable’ (Latin for ‘drinkable’) or ‘improved drinking’ water, this is generally defined as ‘water that’s safe to drink – or to use for food preparation – without risk of health problems.’ This is regardless of its source, colour, taste, temperature, etc...

In Year-2015, about 91 per cent of the world population of 7.349 billion had access to ‘drinking-quality’ water. In other words: nearly 4.2 billion people had access to tap water, while another 2.4 billion had access to water wells or public taps.

However, about 1.8bn people still used unsafe drinking water sources which may be contaminated by feces – resulting in infectious diarrhoea such as cholera and typhoid, among others.

On the other hand, about 663m people lacked access to safe water in Year- 2015 as a matter of course! In the event, the World Economic Forum in January 2015 pronounced the ongoing water crisis as “the Number-1 Global Risk – based on its impact to society (as a measure of devastation)...

” Whew! So, go on out there and commemorate International Water Day today, seeking to improve access to WaSH -- yes: ‘Water; Sanitation; Hygiene’ – facilities all round. Perhaps for starters: look to reducing unnecessary ‘wastewater,’ recycling same not only into ‘freshwater, but further into potable water... Cheers!

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