Join Us in Celebrating World Water Day!

Posted on March 22, 2011


International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.


An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. Past themes include water quality, sanitation, water scarcity, and water and culture. The 2011 theme is “Water for Cities-Responding to the Urban Challenge”. Here is a peak at how the growth of urbanization will lead to water challenges for cities.


Growth by numbers:

  • Every second, the urban population grows by 2 people.

  • 95% of the urban expansion in the next decades will take place in the developing world.

  • In Africa and Asia, the urban population is expected to double between 2000 and 2030.

  • One out of four city residents worldwide, 789 million in total, lives without access to improved sanitation facilities.

  • 497 million people in cities rely on shared sanitation. In 1990, this number was 249 million.

  • 27% of the urban dwellers in the developing world do not have access to piped water at home.


What are the challenges?


  • 828 million people live in slums or informal settlements that are scattered around the world’s cities; the biggest challenge is to provide these people with adequate water and sanitation facilities.

  • The urban poor pay up to 50 times more for a litre of water than their richer neighbors, since they often have to buy their water from private vendors.



  • Pollution typically refers to chemicals or other substances in concentrations greater than would occur under natural conditions.

  • Every day, 2 million tons of human waste is disposed of in water courses.

  • In many cities, especially in the developing world, the lack of convenient waste water treatment and drainage facilities lead to pollution of the ground-and surface water resources.



  • Lack of convenient sanitation and safe water supply in cities leads to serious health problems.

  • Inadequate sanitation facilities often cause contamination of drinking water.

  • After heavy rain, storm water washes human waste, mainly from informal settlements lacking minimum facilities, into the open drinking water sources of the poor.

  • Contaminated drinking water results in cholera epidemics, fecal-oral diseases such as diarrhea, and outbreaks of malaria.

  • While malaria was often considered a rural disease, it is now among the main causes of illness and death in many urban areas.



  • Leakage -loss- rates of 50% are not uncommon in urban distribution systems.

  • Some 250 to 500 million m³ of drinking water gets lost in many mega cities each year.

  • Saving this amount could provide an additional 10 to 20 million people with drinking water in each mega city.

These issues will all be discussed at today’s conference taking place in Cape Town, South Africa. By being informed and aware of the situation, you can help make a difference as well. Take a look at the International World Water Day website for facts sheets, updates on the conference, and local events!