Today is the 20th UN World Water Day – a chance to raise awareness of the role water plays in building better lives, and to reflect on the progress made over the last two decades, with over 2 billion people gaining access to clean water.
However, with 783 million people still having no choice but to rely on unsafe drinking water, we cannot stop there.
Every day, around 2,000 children die from diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. Time wasted being ill, as well as hours spent collecting water, keeps children out of school, and women from employment.
Improved water sources close to the home not only improve health, education and livelihoods; they can also be used to irrigate household kitchen gardens, while the bi-products of ecological sanitation can enhance soil fertility and crop yields.
Gaura Majhi, 43, is the chair of her community’s water and sanitation committee in Surkhet, Nepal, where WaterAid helped install a gravity-flow water system.
“Before the system was installed, we were always sick and I would waste hours each day collecting water. I had to collect water for my family only days after giving birth. Life was tough. Now we’re able to spend time on things like cultivation. It’s amazing to know my grandchildren are not going to suffer in the way my children and I did.”
Projects such as this also bring employment, with community members being trained to become masons, caretakers and hygiene facilitators to ensure sustainability. The wider impacts of safe water at a community level can then spread to improve water and food security on a national level.
Access to clean, safe water really does transform lives. You can see all the ways it can make a difference through a virtual journey to the village of Alakamisy, Madagascar in a new WaterAid multimedia piece.
This shows the change that can be made in one village, but we believe in water and sanitation for all. Today, WaterAid is launching a new report calling on governments to make a clear commitment to ensure that Everyone, Everywhere has safe water and sanitation by 2030.
The water and sanitation crisis has gone on too long – but we think that the end is in sight. After another 20 years of World Water Days, everyone in the world could have clean drinking water.
With world leaders currently debating what will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, we have the opportunity to adopt a target to get water, sanitation and hygiene to everyone.
It won’t be easy. It will need governments, the private sector, civil society and communities to work together and be committed to see water and sanitation as a foundation for development. It will need more investment and better ways to spend water and sanitation budgets, but it can – and must – be done.
Let’s not let this opportunity slip through our fingers to get water to everyone by 2030.
Have a wonderful World Water Day!