Flowing toward peace: celebrating World Water Day 2024

This year’s theme for World Water Day (March 22nd, 2024) is “Water for Peace,” highlighting the critical role water plays in the stability and prosperity of the world. Only 0.5% of water on Earth is usable and available freshwater. With climate change posing a grave threat to this limited water supply, it is crucial now more than ever to prioritize water reuse as a means of building resilience in the face of diminishing resources.

World Water Day 2024 - Water For Peace

Shockingly, over 3 billion people worldwide rely on water that traverses national boundaries. However, out of 153 countries sharing rivers, lakes, and aquifers, merely 24 report having cooperation agreements for all shared water resources (UN Water, 2024). With the escalating impacts of climate change and a growing global population, we must come together to safeguard and preserve our most precious resource. Through collective efforts to uphold everyone’s human rights and address their needs, water can emerge as a unifying force and a driver of sustainable development.

Water for peace

Credit: UNICEF/UN0203985/Jeelo

Understanding the urgency and complexity of water security

The theme of ‘Water for Peace’ emphasizes the pressing need for collective efforts to guarantee water security, promote peace, and advance sustainable development for the betterment of all humanity.

  • 2.2 billion still live without safely managed drinking water, including 115 million people who drink surface water (WHO/UNICEF, 2023).
  • Roughly 1/2 of the world’s population is experiencing severe water scarcity for at least part of the year (IPCC, 2022).
  • The number of city inhabitants lacking safely managed drinking water has increased by more than 50% since 2000. (UN-Water, 2021)
  • The global urban population is estimated to grow from 3.9 billion people today to 6.3 billion in 2050. (UNESCO, 2012)
  • Naturally occurring arsenic pollution in groundwater now affects nearly 140 million people in 70 countries on all continents (WHO, 2018).
  • 42% of household wastewater is not treated properly, damaging ecosystems and human health (UN-Water, 2023).
  • The untapped potential for wastewater reuse is around 320 billion m3 per year, with the potential to supply more than 10 times the current global desalination capacity. (UNEP, 2023)
  • Wastewater can generate biogas, heat, and electricity. It can produce about five times more energy than is required for its treatment – enough to provide electricity for around half a billion people per year. (UNEP, 2023)
  • Only 11% of the estimated total of domestic and industrial wastewater produced is currently being reused (UNEP, 2023).
  • Wetlands are being drained for agriculture, with some 85% lost globally in the last 300 years, and more than 50% since 1900 (UNEP, 2022).
  • Climate change, population growth, and increasing water scarcity will pressure the food supply, as most freshwater, about 72% on average, is used for agriculture (UN-Water, 2024).
  • Children under the age of 15 living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, almost three times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence (UNICEF, 2019).
  • Water-related disasters have dominated the list over the past 50 years and account for 70% of all deaths related to natural disasters (World Bank, 2022). 
  • Transboundary waters account for 60% of the world’s freshwater flows, and 153 countries have territory within at least 1 of 310 transboundary river and lake basins and inventoried 468 transboundary aquifer systems (UN-Water, 2023).
  • Collaborative water management across borders and sectors yields numerous advantages, including bolstering food security, maintaining robust livelihoods and ecosystems, fortifying resilience to climate change, mitigating disaster risks, facilitating renewable energy production, bolstering urban and industrial infrastructure, and promoting regional integration and peace (UNESCO/UNECE, 2023).

Water cooperation creates a positive ripple effect. By joining forces across borders and sectors, we can expedite advancements in the sustainable development of our cities. This collaboration not only sustains livelihoods and ecosystems but also strengthens resilience against climate change. Investing in sustainable technology, such as water reuse, is now more imperative than ever before.

“When the well is dry, we know the value of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

Share on Social Media