Water is the essential building block of life. But it is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health – water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.
That is why this year, the theme of World Water Day is ‘Better Water, Better Jobs’ and focuses on the central role that water plays in creating and supporting good quality jobs. It is estimated that around half of the world’s workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water-related sectors. According to World Water Development Report 2016 that 3 out of 3 of the jobs worldwide (75%) are water-dependent.
Yet, despite the indelible link between jobs and water, millions of people whose livelihoods depend on water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights.
About World Water Day
First declared in 1993, after the UN General Assembly agreed that the significance of fresh-water resources should be recognized in the hope to improve global awareness and encourage greater conservation efforts.
Since then, March 22 has been celebrated annually as World Water Day, with educational events and a variety of activities devised to mark the day – including conferences, round table discussions, seminars and expositions related to the conservation and development of water resources.
Through UN-Water, the United Nations’ inter-agency mechanism on all freshwater- related issues (including sanitation), UN entities and international partners work together to place water and sanitation as top issues and 21st Century essential knowledge. World Water Day is one of UN-Water’s campaigns that aim to inform, engage and inspire action.
Speaking on the launch of the 2016 World Water Day in Geneva, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to pay greater attention to the importance of water.
“Despite its paramount importance, water as a sector generally does not receive the attention it deserves. Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy,” he said, adding that people with the least access clean water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
“On this World Water Day,” he continued, “let us reaffirm our commitment to improve the quality, management and protection of water resources as part of our historic campaign to achieve a life of dignity for all people”.
Water And Work
The link between water and economic growth is clear. According to the 2016 United Nations World Water Development Report, Water and Jobs, water – from its collection, through various uses, to its ultimate return to the natural environment – is a key factor in the development of job opportunities either directly related to its management (supply, infrastructure, waste water treatment, etc.) or in economic sectors that are heavily water-dependent, such as agriculture, fishing, power, industry and health.
What is more, good access to drinking water and sanitation promotes an educated and healthy workforce, which constitutes an essential factor for sustained economic growth. In fact, according to research carried out on behalf of UN-Water, between 2013 and 2015, annual economic growth is estimated at about 6% in developing countries and 2% in higher income countries. As economies grow and diversify, they experience competing demands for water to meet the needs of more municipal and industrial uses, as well as agriculture – for which 70% of the global water withdrawals are used.
But among the chief concerns for the future is how water shortages and lack of access may limit economic growth in the years to come. As climate change adversely impacts on the global water tables, the economic (as well as environmental and health) effects can be major. The world population is expected to rise from 7 billion people today to 9 billion in 2050, leading to a 60% increase of the food needed globally and a 19% increase of agricultural water consumption.
Water and sanitation are essential workers’ lives and health. Every hour 38 workers die from water-related diseases. These deaths can be prevented with better water and sanitation (improved quality drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and related knowledge). The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services at home and in the workplace helps strengthen economies by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce, with beneﬁt-to-cost ratios as high as 7 to 1 for basic water and sanitation services in developing countries.
Image: World Water Day 2016 focuses on the link between water and work around the world. Image from WorldWaterDay website
Support Your Water Charity
At our sister site, MyCharityMap, you can find thousands of charities that seek to make the world a better place, including hundreds that support water sanitation and water conservation. And because charities and their projects are displayed on an interactive map, it’s easy to find the wildlife charities operating near you. Visit MyCharityMap now and find the water charity you want to support.