World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water. This year’s theme: Why waste water? in support of SDG 6.3 on improving water quality and reducing, treating and reusing wastewater.
Globally, the vast majority of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or reused – polluting drinking and bathing and irrigation and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.
Reducing and safely treating and reusing wastewater, for example in agriculture and aquaculture, protects worker, farmers and consumers promotes food security, health and well-being.
READ MORE (Why waste water? )
Water and health
Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Absent, inadequate, or inappropriately managed water and sanitation services expose individuals to preventable health risks. This is particularly the case in health care facilities where both patients and staff are placed at additional risk of infection and disease when water, sanitation and hygiene services are lacking. Globally, 15% of patients develop an infection during a hospital stay, with the proportion much greater in low-income countries.
Inadequate management of urban, industrial and agricultural wastewater means the drinking-water of hundreds of millions of people is dangerously contaminated or chemically polluted.
Some 842000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hand hygiene. But diarrhoea is largely preventable, and the deaths of 361 000 children aged under 5 each year could be avoided each year if these risk factors were addressed. Where water is not readily available, people may decide handwashing is not a priority, thereby adding to the likelihood of diarrhoea and other diseases.
Diarrhoea is the most widely known disease linked to contaminated food and water but there are other hazards. Almost 240 million people are affected by schistosomiasis – an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms contracted through exposure to infested water.
In many parts of the world, insects that live or breed in water carry and transmit diseases such as dengue fever. Some of these insects, known as vectors, breed in clean, rather than dirty water, and household drinking-water containers can serve as breeding grounds. The simple intervention of covering water storage containers can reduce vector breeding and may also have a co-benefit of reducing faecal contamination of water at the household level.