World Water Day is an important UN calendar observance day. We celebrate it for the 25th time this year! The decision on stressing the importance of water and all of its uses through giving it its own date was made in 1993. at the United Nations General Assembly. Since then every year a different approach is used to make awareness of the waters and all related to its status quo. 22nd of March World Water Day in 2018 goes by the theme “Nature for Water” and campaign “The answer is in nature” with giving the answer to the proposed question on how can we reduce droughts, floods and water pollution. This year’s campaign proposes the so called “Nature-based solutions” these solutions turn from the grey infrastructure dominant among humans and tries to sway its course to green infrastructure. Green infrastructure it seems is the path to returning to nature, by adapting systems to minimize the problems of water scarcity and abundance. This week at the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil, the UN will launch its new International Decade of Action on Water (2018-2028) and pass on its World Water Report written by the World Water Assessment Programme. And this year’s UN Water Champion Award for leading a social media campaign will be Pitbull. His colleagues Bruno Mars, Pink Maroon 5, etc. have also participated in the action.
Nature-based solutions and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals not only help reaching the Goal 6: to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; which is the most important goal for this day finds us as witnesses of waters throughout character. By going after this goal we are also helping the goals of No poverty, Zero hunger, Good health (highly connected to productivity), Affordable, clean energy, Industry, innovation and infrastructure, Sustainable cities and communities, Responsible production and consumption, Life below water and life on land. These nature based solutions help reduce pollution by decreasing the need of relying on energy hungry grey consumption and production, by expanding natural habitats nature renews and regulates itself and thus begins the process of natural water filtration and increased biodiversity from which we all benefit.
When it comes to Serbia, people have, in recent history, been victims of floods as well as droughts. These floods made damages not only in material value but also in peoples’ lives. Droughts every year damage our agriculture and the sustainability of our food supply. The threat of floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, unsecured rivers and lakes. From Serbia’s experience the damages of floods could have been avoided if the ecosystem was better taken care of. In particular the securing of the river dams, prevention of erosion by planting trees, taking due care in what agricultural methods will be used on specific soils etc. When we not only neglect our ecosystems but fail to be in harmony with it, we make it harder for everyone to access water we all need to survive and thrive. Also we expose ourselves and other living creatures to dangerous situations that could have been avoided. Climate change is an enhancer of problems related to the size of environmental damages. Over 80% of wastewater around the world flows back to the rivers and oceans without being treated.Crises around the world are mostly water related, which brings us to the fact of how much this awareness day is needed. Water challenges of the 21st century will have to be overcome by nature. By making changes in the infrastructure the most important thing is not to interrupt the waters cycle. For nature from nature to the people and life itself. Down below you can see facts from the UN fact sheet on water demand, availability:
- 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services.
- By 2050, the world’s population will have grown by an estimated 2 billion people and global water demand could be up to 30% higher than today.
- Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of global water withdrawals, mostly for irrigation – a figure which rises in areas of high water stress and population density. Industry takes 20% of the total, dominated by energy and manufacturing. The remaining 10% goes to domestic use – the proportion used for drinking water is much less than 1%.
- The number of people at risk from floods is projected to rise from 1.2 billion today to around 1.6 billion in 2050 – nearly 20% of the world’s population.
- Today, around 1.8 billion people are affected by land degradation and desertification. At least 65% of forested land is in a degraded state.
- An estimated 64-71% of natural wetlands have been lost since 1900 as a result of human activity.
- Soil erosion from croplands carries away 25 to 40 billion tonnes of topsoil every year, significantly reducing crop yields and the soil’s ability to regulate water, carbon and nutrients. The runoff, containing large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous, is also a major contributor to water pollution.
Serbia can implement the proposed solutions to manage water availability and quality by ‘restoring forests, grasslands and natural wetlands, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, creating buffers of vegetation along water courses. Water storage via natural wetlands, soil moisture and/or groundwater recharging can be more sustainable and cost-effective than grey infrastructure, such as dams. Pollution from agriculture can be drastically reduced by NBS such as conservation agriculture, which protects soil from erosion, or riparian buffers, strips of land along water courses planted with native trees and shrubs. The application of certain NBS creates what is known as ‘green infrastructure’: natural or semi-natural systems that give us equivalent or similar benefits to conventional, human-built ‘grey infrastructure’. Benefits go beyond water, constructed wetlands used for wastewater treatment can provide biomass for energy production, improve biodiversity and create recreational spaces and associated employment.
Let us not forget the 24th of March the Earth Hour day -‘This year, Earth Hour sweeps across twenty-four time zones and six continents at 8:30pm on 24 March local time. Join in to protect our shared home and all its incredible nature! It’s time to #Connect2Earth.’ If you are by any chance in Belgrade, Serbia see you at the Republic Square at the mentioned time!
At the end we have a little quiz for you! To find out what force of nature are you click here. If you loved the quiz the next step are games for sustainability which can be found on https://games4sustainability.org/water-games/ .
Author: Teodora Višnjić