“[Water] defines our blue planet… Like the air we breathe, it is vital to the health of individuals and communities. And both literally and figuratively, water represents the wellspring of life on earth.”
– Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, World Water Day 2010.
On March 22, 2011, communities across the globe will celebrate the 18th anniversary of World Water Day. Originally conceived at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, World Water Day has raised the importance of clean, accessible water to the future of life on earth.
This year’s theme is Water for Cities – an appropriate focus as cities from China to Zambia continue to and grow and expand, putting strain on the world’s finite water resources. The statistics tell the story: Total global water demand is doubling every 20 years. More than 2.8 billion people will be living in either water-scarce or water-stressed regions of the world by 2025. More than 1 billion people lack access to an improved water supply and more than 2 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, undermining efforts to protect public health.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton recognize that water issues are integral to both our development and foreign policy priorities. USAID has taken the lead on addressing these issues. The $47 million USAID/Indonesia Environmental Services Program (ESP) links environmental health, water resource protection, biodiversity conservation and critical land rehabilitation initiatives with public health issues of diarrhea prevention and increased access to clean water and sanitation services. In three years the ESP has provided 61,479 households or 249,660 individuals with increased access to clean water, trained 25,231 people in effective hand washing with soap and leveraged $15,318,000 in financial resources to expand ESP’s work. In addition, Indonesian cities are finally taking wastewater collection and treatment seriously, and preparing a budget toward improved infrastructure. USAID has funded similar programs in West Africa and Southern Africa.
As part of a $362.6 million compact with the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) aims to improve the water delivery infrastructure for the country’s garment and textile operations and future industrial projects. Domestic users in selected urban and rural areas will also benefit from water system upgrades and expansion, while rural livelihoods will benefit from improved watershed management. Additional MCC water and sanitation projects are underway in Burkina Faso, El Salvador and Georgia. MCC also supports irrigation projects in Mali and Armenia.
American companies are also doing their part. Coca-Cola in partnership with USAID is working in Mali with the local Coca-Cola bottler BRAMALI to construct a new wastewater treatment facility to meet stricter environmental regulations. Studies are underway to determine the feasibility of using treated water from the plant for small-scale irrigated agriculture in neighboring communities. Procter & Gamble (P&G) has developed a point-of-use water treatment product called PuR Purifier of Water that allows consumers to purify up to 10 liters of water in 5 minutes. P&G is working with USAID and other partners to make PuR available in a number of countries including Uganda, Haiti, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
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There is still plenty to do to ensure an adequate supply of clean, fresh water for the world’s population. In conjunction with World Water Day 2011, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero will host a live webchat to discuss the USG’s latest efforts to partner with international organizations on water issues. Please join in on the discussion – Global Water Day: Challenges & Opportunities – on Thursday, March 24 at 12:30 GMT via Facebook. Under Secretary Otero will be taking your questions and comments as we work together to address global water challenges.
Otero bio: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/127184.htm