In deep waters: On World Water Day today, it’s time to pledge to manage our water resources

Vaishali Dar
In deep waters, World Water Day, Coronavirus outbreak, climate change, greenhouse gases, drinking water, sanitation, human rights, water resources

Even as the world is gripped in the fear of Coronavirus, the time has come to prepare ourselves for another significant global crisis: climate change-induced water scacity. The two are inextricably linked. There's a constant need, in fact, to adapt to the effects of climate change, including on water, to protect health and save lives. We need to use water more efficiently to reduce greenhouse gases.

The United Nations recognises safe drinking water and sanitation as basic human rights, indispensable to sustaining healthy livelihoods and fundamental in maintaining the dignity of all human beings. March 22 is celebrated as World Water Day to raise awareness about the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. The core focus of this day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030, as suggested by the UN.

March 2019 saw the launch of the United Nations World Water Development Report, which demonstrates how improvements in water resource management and access to water supply and sanitation services are essential to address various social and economic inequities. The aim is that no one should be left behind when it comes to enjoying the multiple benefits and opportunities that water provides.

The water crisis, however, has affected one and all. From Cape Town in South Africa to Chennai in India, people struggle to access good-quality water required for drinking, cooking, bathing, handwashing and growing food. In 2015, Brazil's São Paulo had Day Zero, turning off its water supply for 12 hours a day. In 2008, Barcelona had to import tankers full of freshwater from France.

Frequent droughts have been affecting more people around the world. Fourteen of the world's 20 megacities are now experiencing water scarcity or drought conditions, reports National Geographic. About four billion people live in regions of severe water stress and nearly half of those people live in India and China.

India tops the list of countries with the most number of people living with water scarcity. "With one billion people living in water scarcity during at least one part of the year and around 600 million living in areas of high to extreme water stress, India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history," said the report, Beneath the Surface: The State of the World's Water 2019, released by global non-profit organisation WaterAid.

The looming climate change has aggravated the water crisis for people, societies and business, posing an immediate threat to the world. It’s no wonder then that more and more business enterprises are introducing planet-friendly initiatives for better water management.

While Swedish cosmetic brand Oriflame uses biodegradable, natural-origin beads in exfoliating products, Unilever in 2018 introduced Domestos Flush Less, a toilet spray that disinfects and eliminates odours without the need to flush, in South Africa. Kohler has a flush system with minimal water consumption and Swedish innovation company Altered has developed faucets and showers that radically reduce water and energy use.

The 2030 Procter & Gamble goal suggests reducing water use in its manufacturing facilities by 20% per unit of production. With that, the sites will deliver a 35% increase in water efficiency, sourcing at least five billion litres of water from circular sources.

Then there is denim label Numero Uno, which launched ‘One Glass Water Denims’ to save 70% of the water wasted in the washing procedure, revolutionising the harmful impact of industrial wash processes in making jeans. Aiming to educate the community, Shiv Nadar University, too, has launched a multidisciplinary postgraduate programme in water science and policy to widen the learning opportunities and to enable people to study the multi-dimensionality of water.