World Water Day 2017: Why Waste Water?

March 14, 2017

Every year, on March 22, we celebrate World Water Day by raising awareness about water-related issues and inspiring people to take action and make a difference.

Water is fundamentally important to human survival and inextricably linked with the health of the environment and the economy. Despite its importance, over 80% of wastewater generated by society is released back into the ecosystem without being reused or treated. The resulting wastewater not only harms and pollutes the environment, but is a health hazard to billions of people around the world. The theme of this year’s World Water Day is Wastewater to encourage individuals and communities to reduce and safely recycle the increasing quantities of wastewater that we produce.

The human costs of untreated wastewater are devastating. Currently, 1.8 billion people rely on a source of drinking water that has been contaminated with waste, leaving them exposed to a variety of water-borne illnesses. Water insecurity poses a significant challenge to agriculture, exacerbating issues of hunger and malnutrition. Water even affects industry and the economy, as nearly all jobs depend on the availability of and access to safe, clean water.

For all these reasons, the global community has committed to achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A key target of SDG 6 is to improve water quality by reducing pollution, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling globally. By striving to improve water quality, we increase our ability to achieve SDGs on health, affordable and clean energy, sustainable communities, and the health of our ecosystems both above and below the water.

In fact, our wastewater resources provide an incredible opportunity. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy and nutrients. For example, farmers are increasingly interested in recycling wastewater as both a source of irrigation and recycled nutrients. This helps improve food security and nutrition for the poorest of families. Effective wastewater management not only improves lives and the environment, but also makes economic sense, creating new business opportunities and long-lasting, sustainable “green” jobs.

The Hunger Project’s programs support clean water and improved sanitation by empowering rural communities to promote the implementation of water conservation techniques and develop new water resources. Across eight of our high performing epicenters in Africa for example, households with improved drinking water increased by 67% on average; and households with a sanitation facility increased by 589%!

Here’s what we do to improve water and sanitation in our program countries:

  • Building Capacity: Establishing water project boards made up of community leaders trained by experts on how to monitor, maintain and repair water systems; training people in the use and repair of water pumps and generators; and training a core of local leaders in water safety and purification so they can lead workshops throughout the community and expand grassroots knowledge.
  • Developing New Sustainable Water Sources: Empowering local communities to drill new wells and boreholes and repair existing ones; build and repair water towers; and construct water troughs for livestock. In Uganda, we’ve partnered with Siemens Stiftung and The Skyjuice Foundation to deliver safe, clean water to the community through the installation of new water filtration facilities and kiosks.
  • Ensuring a Reliable Supply of Clean Water: Providing equipment and training for testing and pumping water; empowering communities to build and repair latrines in homes, schools and public spaces; and lobbying local governments to devote public resources to water infrastructure projects.
  • Implementing Water Conservation Techniques: Mobilizing communities to initiate drip irrigation projects, which minimize the use of water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants; and developing water catchment systems, which collect rainwater from a roof or other surface before it reaches the ground and store it for future use. Check out this video from The Hunger Project-Mexico on their rainwater harvesting program.
  • Sanitation Programs: Good hygiene is more than a convenience; waterborne illness is a leading cause of childhood deaths around the world. The Hunger Project trainings and capacity building projects improve living conditions and save lives.

Join us in celebrating World Water Day on March 22nd. Water is a limited resource and we need your support in making clean water accessible to all!