ith two-thirds of the earth’s surface covered by water and the human body itself consisting of 75 per cent water, this is watertight proof that water is one of the prime elements needed for life on earth. Water circulates through the land just as it does through the human body, transporting, dissolving and replenishing nutrients and organic matter, while carrying away waste material. An average adult body contains 42 litres of water and with just a small loss of 2.7 litres he or she can suffer from dehydration, displaying symptoms of irritability, fatigue, nervousness, dizziness, weakness and headaches and consequently reach a state of pathology, experts say.
The international community today marks World Water Day. The United Nations says that especially on days such as this and indeed everyday people everywhere should show that they care and that they have the power to make a difference. They get inspired by information and use it to take action and change things. This year the theme will be ‘Water and Jobs’ and the world will focus on the power that water and jobs have to transform people’s lives.
The UN says nearly all jobs are related to water and those that ensure its safe delivery. But today, millions of people, who work in water are often not recognized or even protected by basic labour rights. This needs to change.
World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. An international observance for water was recommended. UN-Water coordinates the world body’s work on water and sanitation for a better world. Through UN-Water, UN entities and international partners work together to place water and sanitation as top issues and make it essential knowledge for the 21st century. World Water Day is one of UN-Water’s campaigns that aims to inform, engage and inspire action, the UN says.
According to the United States-based movement, The Water Project, clean, safe drinking water is scarce. Today, nearly one billion people in the developing world do not have access to it. Yet, we take it for granted, we waste it and we even pay too much to drink it from little plastic bottles. Water is the foundation of life. And still today, all around the world, far too many people spend their entire day searching for it.
In places like sub-Saharan Africa, time lost gathering water and suffering from water-borne diseases are limiting people’s true potential, especially of women and girls. Education is lost to sickness. Economic development is lost while people merely try to survive. But it does not have to be like this. It’s needless suffering, the movement says. Simply put, water scarcity is either the lack of enough water (quantity) or lack of access to safe water (quality).
It’s hard for most of us to imagine that clean, safe water is not something that can be taken for granted. But, in the developing world, finding a reliable source of safe water is often time-consuming and expensive. This is known as economic scarcity. Water can be found. It simply requires more resources to do it. In other areas, the lack of water is a more profound problem. There simply isn’t enough. That is known as physical scarcity. The problem of water scarcity is a growing one. As more people put ever-increasing demands on limited supplies, the cost and effort to build or even maintain access to water will increase. And water’s importance to political and social stability will only grow with the crisis, it adds.
In Sri Lanka -- though we are blessed with several big rivers, streams and canals – the conservation of fresh water needs to be given high priority in the ongoing battle against climate change. As we have said earlier powerful countries in recent decades have gone to war to get control of oil and natural gas resources in developing countries. Within the next few decades we may see such wars for control of fresh water resources.
While the national government plays its part, civic-minded citizens also need to save water or stop the waste of fresh water. When washing hands, utensils or food items the taps should be opened only half way or less. Our shower bath times also could be reduced while more enterprising citizens have found ways of recycling water from the bathroom to the toilet while others have also moved in to rain water harvesting, reminding us of our great King Parakramabahu’s plea that rain water should not be allowed to go waste into the sea without being used for human benefits.
If every citizen saves 10 litres of fresh water a day, then it will be about a saving of about 200 million litres and in one year it would be like an ocean.