World Water Day: Transforming lives through better water and jobs


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The largest sphere represents
all of Earth's water. The next
smallest sphere represents the world's
liquid fresh water. The smallest
one represents fresh surface water
in all the lakes and rivers on the planet.
Source: US Geological Survey

Water covers 70% of Earth’s surface, but if you live in Sana’a, Sao Paolo, California, or the many other areas where drought or chronic water scarcity has affected daily life, you know that abundance can be relative.

This image from the US Geological Survey shows that only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is the accessible freshwater we need to live, grow food, sustain the environment, and power our cities and jobs.

Growing cities and populations and a changing climate are placing unprecedented pressures on water. According to the World Economic Forum, water crises are among the top risks to global economic growth. For at least 650 million people, even the water they are able to find is unsafe.

But this also offers an opportunity to provide safer water and better manage our water resources for a more resilient future.

This year, #worldwaterday focuses on the connection between water and jobs, and these connections primarily fall under two categories: productivity and sustainability.

In Africa, an estimated 40 billion working hours are spent fetching water, usually by women (United Nations Development Programme). Better access to safer water frees up time, enhances health and offers potential for new opportunities.

Most job creators rely heavily on water for their day to day business, if not as an actual ingredient in the products they sell.  Those jobs are dependent on a steady supply of clean water, and thus have a stake in better, more sustainable water resource management. Today, almost half of the word’s 1.5 billion workers are working in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery (UN Water).

Image credit: Igor A. Shiklomanov, SHI and UNESCO

In fact, we all have a huge stake in the long term availability and quality of our water. (That’s why together with the UN in January, we announced a new Heads of State Panel on Water to motivate urgent action at the highest political level).

We and our many partners at the UN, in academia, civil society and others, stand ready to support countries’ efforts to provide better access to safer water and sanitation and to better manage water resources for a more resilient future.

For this year’s #worldwaterday, we invite you to participate by joining the UN’s #wateris campaign. Let your voice be heard on social media via a selfie or other photo, tell your family, friends, colleagues and the world how water is essential for your job.

Below are a few excerpts from recent World Bank knowledge products that highlight the interlinkages between water and economic development. We hope you find them useful.

Image credit: Water and Sanitation Program, World Bank
Source: United Nations Development Programme
  • “Analysis, monitoring and evaluation, and special interventions are required to ensure that women benefit from the economic opportunities that water generates.” – Water for Development: Responding to the Challenges

  • “In the past five years, more than 50% of the world’s power utility and energy companies have experienced water-related business impacts. At least two-thirds indicate that water is a substantive risk to business operations. As the world’s population reaches 9 billion, competing demand for water from other sectors is expected to grow, potentially exacerbating the issue.” – Water Blog: 4 Ways Water Shortages Are Harming Energy Production

  • “The benefits from meeting the water supply and sanitation (WSS) targets combined equal over US$60 billion annually. The main contributor to benefits from universal coverage of WSS is the value of time savings from closer access and reduced queuing for sanitation and water supply facilities, which account for more than 70% of total benefits globally. ” – Water Blog: What costs the world US$260 billion each year? 

  • “The government of Morocco has developed a national plan to help optimize water use and increase productivity in irrigated agriculture. The effort is welcomed by farmers who have a keen interest in more reliable access to water, which is key for achieving greater productivity, and thus increased income.” - Growing Morocco’s Agricultural Potential 

  • “Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) access may influence nutrition outcomes by increasing the productivity of home gardens, leading to more nutritious food intake, and enabling more time and resources for caregiving by reducing time spent fetching water and caring for sick children and time and costs associated with seeking health treatment.” – Multisectoral Approaches to Improving Nutrition: Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Related links:

Video: Sesame Street and World Bank Wish You a Happy World Water Day

Video Playlist: World Water Day 2016

Blog: Niger and Lake Chad Basin countries take important strides towards building climate resilience, in line with Paris Agreement

Blog: Mitigating El Niño's impact on water security

Feature Story: Transforming Jordan’s Badia Deserts into “Ecosystems of Opportunity"


Join the Conversation

Prof. Partha Sarathi Datta
March 22, 2016

The World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year to bring attention on the importance of the most vital natural resource fresh water and advocating for sustainable management of water resources, which runs the world in a host of awe-inspiring ways. Yet, the least is known about it and the public in general takes it completely for granted in day-to-day lives, for various purposes such as agriculture, economy and industrial development. The users just don’t think about it, or use it, efficiently. But, nothing much is done about water, except only Plans, Missions, Summits, Conferences, Campaigns, etc. Practically, very little attention is paid to address the issue of insufficient data to find solution to the problems of water scarcity, safety and ultimately, changing the general public water awareness, consciousness and mid set (the hardest part).
In India, in one day/year the administration decides to grab hold of its water problems, policy and innovation. Next day/year, not only India but probably almost every country (may be barring a few) promises to unveil new ideas to galvanize the sleepy world of water. The data system is also ridiculously primitive for a water management response requirement. There is tendency to make decisions blindly about water conservation, innovation and investing in new kinds of systems, from the simplicity of harvesting rainwater to the brilliant innovations devised by companies that are making impressive breakthroughs in water productivity.
The official analysis of water use in India is being done every five years, and it takes four years to collect, tabulate and release the one year of data. The Government created various agencies over the decades in the wake of the water crisis, when it became clear that there was not enough information about water use necessary to make good public policy. But, the water crises has been percolating all over decades after decades. The truth is, there is no idea what detailed water use data for the India will reveal. If there is daily/monthly data on three large water users (agricultural, power generation, and water utilities), it would be easy to assess which communities use water efficiently, and which ones don’t. What the government could do without costing much is generate more ground truth data, modernizing the collection system of water data. The Government should pass updated legislation creating inside the agencies responsible for a vigorous water data, with the explicit charge to gather and quickly release water data of every kind (agricultural, power generation, and water utilities), and what comes from rivers, reservoirs, and the aquifers. Groundwater’s biggest problem in India and around the world is its invisibility being out of sight and hence not tackled. There is need of a new relationship with water, and that has to start with understanding it.
For long, the water resources professionals had been silently working for the betterment of the society. However, they could not be role models for public in general! The role models are always some actor or actress of the time or a cricketer or a celebrity or someone alike them. Media for advertisements with huge payment of money is also using them, even if they have zero or limited knowledge on water and environment issues. Unfortunately, the 'society by and large' is being misguided by information that floods through newspaper, media etc., especially bringing in some half baked concern and that only some environmentalists activists are concerned about India's development, despite very best professionals brains work hard to usurp them. The media would have done justice if instead of some actor or actress or a cricketer or a celebrity or someone alike them, achievements of water resources professionals could have been projected properly.
Humanity is currently severely affected with the diversion of intelligent attention by purposeful propaganda and obfuscation. Absence of coherent long-term policies on control of communication by mass media with half-baked information, and generic opinions by all kinds of opinion-makers for a pervasive populism, also creates threat and panic in people due to regional polarization from social and political angle with parochial interest, keeping 'only self interest' to the fore. It is very desirable to comprehend the knowledge and apply it in modern society in a justified manner shifting focus on funding priorities from technological solutions to the knowledge generation and understanding, predicting, and changing 'Human behavior dimension', which gets simply manifested as water overconsumption and overuse. Interventions here are just to enthuse youngsters and others also to join the movement to bring out the genuine S&T based evidences related to water resources to the public.

Pradeep Arunasiri
March 23, 2016

Women are playing an active role in agriculture, thus contributing to food security, rain fed agriculture, backyard or irrigated home gardening, while men often are responsible for rain fed commodities and land management aspects of irrigation.
Usually women are totally responsible for handling the drinking water. They are attend to following activities in drought season to provide drinking water for their family.
Seeking for a water source.
Finding alternative water sources.
Allocating water from water source.
Carrying water from water source to their residence.
Treating water for increase the hygienic condition.
Distribution of water among family members.
Women must be so far from their residence to seek alternative water sources under this heavy drought condition. So they were suffered another bad experiences during seeking water as follows.
Facing for accidents by wild elephants, snakes and other wild animals.
Face to kind of violence by some peoples.
Waste their time that must be spend with children
Expecting mothers and old women had been involved to seeking alternative water sources and allocating water.
Difficult to do their occupations due to all of time were spend for seeking water.
They can’t pay attention for other responsibilities that they must do for their family.
Defeated from the competition for gain the remaining water.
With all of the above fact she has to face domestic violence and divorce.

SM Farid Uddin Akhter
March 28, 2016

sasrai Day – Boishakh 01/April 14 Appeal
Save Forest – Save Water – Save Earth & Life ensure Habitable Earth for Each
The biggest threat to the present Planet Earth is Rapid Running Out of the Resources (RRR).
sasrai-Movement must be the Central to Realizing Sustainable Global Development
Ensure Peace, Justice, Dignity, Rights, Prosperity, Security for Each
No matter Climate Changing or Not, Ice Melting or Not – We must stop Consumption Competition…
12th Year of sasrai-Movement
Our Heartiest Love and Reverence for our Volunteer and Well-wisher around the globe

Younghoon Seo
May 27, 2016

Dear Dr.Sara,
I am Dr. Seo working for K-water in South Korea.
My major is information communication technology.
My company is K-water, we have many experience integrated water resouces management.(
I am interested your project in Cambodia. Mekong integrated water Resources management Phase 3 Project.
Could I contact with your e-mail.
From Dr.Seo

Ismaila A. Hassan
May 27, 2016

In Africa children of school age spent most of their supposed school time fetching water for domestic use. This has been a major drawback to their studies and impact their lives later in life.

inaudi iwa suyoto
May 29, 2016

The most problem of water is how all the people can save the water by keeping sustainability of dawning water and using carefully of water.

June 17, 2016

very useful article and thank you so much

Ismaila A. Hassan
July 24, 2016

It takes precious times of children while searching for it.They often have to take a school day off to search for one in countryside.

July 31, 2016

This maybe considered an "off the wall" resolution but I am speaking from experience. When the U.S. Apollo rockets were orbiting the earth, inexplicably we( in SC) had continuous rain showers the entire time those rockets were in the atmosphere. We hated those missions because it was the only thing on TV(...there were only 4 channels at that time)and we could not go outside and play because of all the rain they "seemed" to cause. Would be an interesting study to see if there really is a correlation to those rockets orbiting the atmosphere and the changes caused(..if any). The people in drought stricken areas could benefit and it may have other benefits we never envisioned, previously.