To create awareness regarding the importance of water, the United Nations (UN) declared today, March 22nd, as World Water Day. So, whatever water is left for consumption should be valued. Lack of conservation and misuse of water is putting a great strain on the supply of freshwater.
This year’s World Water Day, with the theme “Valuing water”, asks: What does water mean to me?
The ninth Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres of Portugal, who took office on January 1, 2017, is part diplomat, advocate, civil servant and CEO and is a spokesperson for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them.
“For me, water means protection,” said Guterres. “A well-managed water cycle – encompassing drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, wastewater, transboundary governance, the environment and more – means a defence against ill-health and indignity and a response to challenges from a changing climate and increasing global demand.”
Guterres added that, “Today, we are not on track to ensure everyone has access to water and sanitation by 2030, as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 6. While advances being made, current progress needs to quadruple to achieve universal access.”
To read the Secretary-General’s entire speech, CLICK HERE.
Canada is one of the largest countries in the world with a total area of 9,093,510 square kilometres and population of almost 38 million people. According to the UN, 81 per cent live in urban centres and 19 per cent live in rural areas and, of Canada’s land mass, only seven per cent is agricultural, 38 per cent is forested and 55 per cent is attributed to ‘other’.
For those living on the shores of the Great Lakes, it might be difficult to appreciate the concerns throughout the world on the subject of water but, today, one in three people live without safe drinking water. While Canadians may think that Canada is first in the world when it comes to good water quality, it is actually fifth in the world behind Lithuania, Finland, Belarus, Czhechia and Andorra. For Canada’s Water Situation – CLICK HERE
According to the UN:
- By 2050, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year.
- Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.
- If we limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we could cut climate-induced water stress by up to 50%.
- Extreme weather has caused more than 90% of major disasters over the last decade.
- By 2040, global energy demand is projected to increase by over 25% and water demand is expected to increase by more than 50%.
When looking at water, wetlands also have to be considered as they are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. An immense variety of species of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals can be part of a wetland ecosystem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) “climate, landscape shape (topology), geology and the movement and abundance of water help to determine the plants and animals that inhabit each wetland. The complex, dynamic relationships among the organisms inhabiting the wetland environment are called food webs.
Wetlands’ microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen and sulfur. Scientists now know that atmospheric maintenance may be an additional wetlands function as wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus wetlands help to moderate global climate conditions.”
Far from being useless, disease-ridden places, wetlands provide values that no other ecosystem can. These include natural water quality improvement, flood protection, shoreline erosion control, opportunities for recreation and aesthetic appreciation and natural products for our use at no cost.
According to the Lake Huron Coastal Conservation Centre, there are several stressors that are impacting coastal wetlands, including invasive species (e.g. Phragmites australis, Red-eared Slider) and vehicular use (e.g. ATV’s) that compact sensitive soil, potentially hitting slow-moving reptiles, and potentially introducing invasive species. In addition, development, such as shoreline hardening structures and residential development, reduces habitat area and compromises ecosystem health. Native vegetation removal also reduces habitat needed for different animal lifecycles.
Wetlands are crucial as they act as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters. Trees, root mats and other wetland vegetation also slows the speed of flood waters and distributes them more slowly over the floodplain. This combined water storage and braking action lowers flood heights and reduces erosion.
Within and downstream of urban areas, wetlands are particularly valuable, counteracting the greatly increased rate and volume of surface-water runoff from pavement and buildings. The holding capacity of wetlands helps control floods and prevents water logging of crops. Preserving and restoring wetlands together with other water retention can also provide a level of flood control.
Today is World Water Day … stop and think ‘what does water mean to me?’