A World of Water for World Water Day

Photo by GRACELINKS on flickr

It’s almost here! Like Christmas for water geeks, World Water Day (March 22 ) is the day we at GRACE join the rest of the world in celebrating and discussing all things watery (well, we may dip our toes in the water discussion more frequently than most folks, but especially on World Water Day). I've been involved with water for almost my entire adult life -- researching it, testing it and writing about it. Now, it seems like water is finally catching the attention of the general public. A major production company is even releasing a documentary about it this spring. Clean and abundant water is swirling around in everybody’s mind these days.

Around the world, there are many water-related projects bubbling up -- here’s our short list.

Water and Food Security

This year’s World Water Day theme of “Water and Food Security” has embedded water written all over it. According to the UN, “Each of us needs to drink 2 to 4 litres (0.5 to 1.1 gallons) of water every day. But it takes 2,000 to 5,000 litres (528 to 1321 gallons) of water to produce one person’s daily food.” It’s easy to see where a region facing water scarcity could also easily face food insecurity. In looking to the future, the UN has identified numerous challenges [PDF] between water and food, including:

  • A rising and shifting demand for food;
  • Increased risks from climate change;
  • Yields limited by the gender gap;
  • Scarce water resources;
  • Increasing competition for water; and
  • Degraded land and water resources.

These are big challenges, and as the population grows the demand for water will continue to grow. Not only will we need more water to use directly from a tap for things like drinking and bathing, but also to produce more food and consumer goods as well as more electricity from power plants  G, which also draw a lot of valuable water. Much of that future water use will come in the form of groundwater withdrawals  G increasing the need to evaluate and properly manage that very precious resource.

There are a lot of entities out there competing for our water. Planning and managing wisely with all these uses in mind is the only way to ensure that there will be enough for us all. According to the UN there are actions we can all take to cope with population growth and ensure access to nutritious food for everyone:

  • Follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
  • Consume less water-intensive products;
  • Reduce scandalous food wastage: 30 to 50 percent of food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water (and energy) used to produce it is lost; and
  • Produce more food, of better quality, with less water.

Visualizing.org HeadsUP!

The Visualizing.org HeadsUP! groundwater withdrawal data display will finally be visible in Times Square beginning March 22. Congratulations to designer Richard Vijgen and his eye-catching winning data visualization: “Seasonal and Longterm Changes in Groundwater Levels.” Vijgen cleverly included mockups of his design on the Thomson Reuters/NASDAQ Times Square Squared signboards, showing that his graphics could compete for attention in New York City’s visually overloaded Times Square. If you're in town any time during the month following World Water Day, grab a cup of coffee (on second thought make that tea – less embedded water), head on over to Times Square to check out Vijgen’s animation and learn about groundwater withdrawals.

Mayor’s Challenge

The National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation sponsored by the Wyland Foundation—an organization dedicated to promoting, protecting and preserving the world’s ocean, waterways and marine life –wants you to save water and help your city compete to see which ones can conserve the most. Join in the competition by providing an email address and a zip code and take a water conservation pledge for activities like sorting your garbage and recycling correctly, properly disposing of used motor oil and sweeping instead of using the hose. All the items on the Mayor’s Challenge list have water impacts, even if those impacts aren’t apparent (there’s that embedded water concept again). The challenge begins March 30th and runs through April 30th, covering different regions of the country and cities with differing population sizes. I don’t have a car or a yard so all of my pledges pertained to water use around the home. Even still, my pledges added up to tens of thousands of gallons of water saved over the course of a year. Take the pledge and see how much you could save.

Clean Water Act Turns 40

According to American Rivers, the Clean Water Act (CWA) “represented a huge step forward by requiring states to set clean water standards to protect uses such as swimming, fishing, and drinking, and for the regulation of pollution discharges.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of the CWA  G.

However, the CWA almost never came to be thanks to President Richard Nixon, even though Nixon is credited with its passage (and establishment of the EPA). According to PBS, “In 1972, he vetoed the Clean Water Act, which he generally supported, because Congress had boosted its cost to $18 billion. When Congress overrode his veto, he used his presidential powers to impound half of the money.” If this is sounding familiar, it’s because last summer a certain sector of Congress put the CWA in its sites with the intention of gutting it. Some things never change. Look for more on this in a subsequent post. Happy anniversary, CWA!

Use World Water Day as a time to begin valuing and respecting our most precious resources. Check out the Visualizing.org HeadsUP! Times Square signs (check it out virtually if you can’t see it in person), take the Mayor’s Challenge to save water and see how many gallons you can save in the next year, take our water footprint calculator and find out how much water you really use in a day, then take a few moments to think about how fortunate we are to have laws that aim to protect our water quality. Create a goal for yourself to increase your knowledge about food security by making better food choices…because really, every day should be World Water Day.

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