Today is World Water Day, which celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people who lack access to safe water. The ninth World Water Forum is in Dakar, Senegal and the theme is “Groundwater: making the invisible visible.”
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The roots of World Water Day go back to 1992. That year, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development took place in Rio de Janeiro. The United Nations General Assembly deemed March 22 of each year World Water Day. The first World Water Day took place in 1993. Over the years, the celebration grew as did the events. Now, one of the day’s focuses is helping to achieve the UN Environment Program’s sustainable goal six: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.
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Focus on groundwater in 2022
Officials choose a freshwater theme two to three years in advance. This year, it’s all about groundwater. It beat out 14 other proposed themes in an online poll among UN organizations.
Groundwater is water found in geological formations of rocks called aquifers. Ninety-nine percent of liquid freshwater is just beneath the surface, hiding in the sand and gravel, and recharged by rain and snowfall. Without groundwater, much of the world would be uninhabitable. Arid regions depend on groundwater for drinking, food production, sanitation and industry. Worldwide, almost half of people’s drinking water comes from groundwater, and it provides about 40% of the water necessary for irrigated agriculture. Groundwater also feeds rivers, wetlands, lakes and streams.
Despite its importance, a lot of people do not understand groundwater or know how to access it and keep it safe. Climate variability and human activities are putting dangerous pressure on groundwater resources, depleting and polluting them. This year’s World Water Day focus is intended to help people understand why they need to take better groundwater care.
Different parts of the world face different groundwater issues. Asia and the Pacific region have the world’s lowest per capita water availability. By 2050, groundwater use may increase by 30% to solve this need. European and North American groundwater suffers from nitrate and pesticide infiltration. In fact, 20% of Europe groundwater bodies are so polluted by agriculture that they exceed Europe standards. Around the world, people have to learn how to manage their groundwater by not extracting more than the rain and snow can recharge.
World Water Day video contest
A fun way to get involved with World Water Day is to enter a video contest. The challenge is to make a 60-second video on this year’s theme, “Groundwater – making the invisible visible.” Anybody around the world can submit a video about how groundwater affects their lives and what we can do to protect it. Judges will select some of these short videos to show at the UN Water Summit on Groundwater in December 2022.
The basic filming guidelines are to stay within the time limit, shoot your video in landscape orientation and be civil. Accuracy is important, so check your facts. If you’re recording in a language other than English, include English subtitles. Use a decent microphone and tell a compelling story with a regional focus. People want to understand the groundwater situation in places all over the world, whether you’re in a tiny, remote village, a big city or anything in between.
Once you’ve made your video, upload it to Vimeo or YouTube and use the hashtags #MyGroundwaterStory and #WorldWaterDay to share on social media. You also need to send the link to [email protected]. You can enter anytime between now and midnight CET on November 20, 2022.
What can we do to protect groundwater?
While making a video and entering a contest is fun, we can take action year round, wherever we are. The groundwater problem is not just over there in somebody else’s farm, industrial site or country. It’s under our feet every day. We can all help reduce pollution.
At home, we need to think about waste disposal. If you dump chemicals down your drain, they’ll end up in the water supply. Avoid having underground fuel tanks. It’s safer to keep them above ground where you can keep an eye on them. If you must have an underground fuel tank, test it for leaks. People with on-site wells should test them regularly for pollution.
If you work with any hazardous materials, be sure to safely store and handle them. Check your wastewater discharge connections. Plug any holes in dumpsters and keep them covered. Be extra careful when it rains, as chemicals and waste get washed right down storm drains. Use pesticides and deicing salt sparingly.
Water is something that people often take for granted. Until it’s scarce. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with an adequate water supply, work to keep it that way, and to help others who aren’t so fortunate.
Images via Pexels