World Water Week occurs on the last week of August. The Stockholm International Water Institute established the event in 1991 as a global forum to discuss water-related challenges and explore potential solutions.
This event is a hands-on conference for in-depth dialogue designed to influence policy changes, encourage new practices, and facilitate water security and sustainability discussions. Read on to learn more.
Featured in: August - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
History and Background of World Water Week
In 1991, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) initiated an event called World Water Week to respond to the planet's increasingly unstable water resources. It helped raise awareness about the issue and paved the way for future efforts towards sustainable water management, from water diplomacy to transboundary water cooperation.
The inaugural World Water Week was held in Stockholm, Sweden, bringing together scientists, policymakers, representatives from organizations like the World Bank and the private sector, and activists.
Since its inception, the event has grown into a global phenomenon, featuring a new theme every year that reflects the changing dynamics of water and development and the latest scientific knowledge.
Moreover, the Stockholm Water Prize is a constant feature, recognizing individuals who have made significant strides in developing water solutions. It also cultivates a newer generation of water champions through the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, where high school students present their innovative projects.
World Water Week has also inspired the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 6, which focuses on clean water and sanitation.
Each year, the event is centered around a specific theme, focusing on different aspects of water use, conservation, and management. The theme for World Water Week 2023 is “Seeds of Change: Innovative Solutions for a Water-Wise World.”
The Cause and Its Challenges
Reports say that 2.2 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, while 3.5 billion lack proper sanitation services [SDG 2023]. Unfortunately, contaminated water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene kill 829,000 people annually.
The water crisis also affects the economic life of impoverished communities1. People from these communities spend hours fetching water from tainted sources instead of working or going to school. This results in an annual loss of approximately US$6.5 billion in productivity due to missed workdays.
Why World Water Week Matters
Millions of people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water due to lack of availability or contamination, putting them at risk for numerous health issues. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to provide clean water and sanitation to everyone, calling on improving water management and infrastructure worldwide.
Moreover, climate change exacerbates water scarcity due to changing weather patterns. It also disrupts food security and increases biodiversity loss.
The UN projects that around 700 million people could be displaced from their homes by 2030 due to water scarcity from global warming [SDG 2020], creating millions of "climate refugees."
Furthermore, four out of every five gallons of untreated wastewater are discharged into the environment, resulting in a decline in water quality that harms ecosystems.
Additionally, agriculture consumes almost 70% of the world's freshwater. We must re-evaluate our water usage, particularly in food production, to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource before it is too late.
Efforts and Initiatives
The global water crisis has prompted various initiatives. One such initiative is the United Nations International Decade for Action on Water (2018-2028), a ten-year commitment to promote sustainable development. The initiative manages integrated water resources to ensure equitable distribution of clean water and sanitation access for everyone worldwide.
Meanwhile, Water.org, a non-profit organization backed by co-founder Matt Damon, has developed a solution-oriented approach and unique financing options. By providing safe water and sanitation to over 36 million people, Water.org has empowered communities and fostered sustainable solutions.
Additionally, the US government's WaterSMART program focuses on using water wisely in the face of climate change. Similarly, the European EU Water Initiative aims to break down barriers and improve water management and poverty reduction through collaborative efforts.
How to Get Involved and Support World Water Week
Be part of the solution by reducing personal water consumption. Daily habits such as turning off the tap while brushing, shortening showers, and promptly addressing leaks can lead to substantial water savings. Likewise, upgrade your home appliances to water-efficient versions.
Then, encourage your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to do the same and value each drop of water. Additionally, you can learn about the global water crisis by reading books, watching documentaries, studying reliable news sources, and knowing about local events.
Share your insights on social media or in casual conversations and raise awareness during World Water Week.
You can also lobby local representatives and express your concerns about how current governance systems manage the crisis.
World Water Week centers around the unprecedented challenges in safeguarding our most crucial asset, water. This international event reminds us of the harsh reality billions of people face worldwide.
Each drop saved can be a catalyst for a necessary shift towards sustainability. We must make every day an echo of World Water Week and improve our water-scarce world.
World Water Week FAQs
World Water Week gathers experts, policymakers, and organizations worldwide to discuss and solve water-related challenges.
World Water Week raises awareness about the global water crisis and provides a platform for sharing knowledge, best practices, and innovative ideas to address water issues.
Some key water-related challenges include water scarcity, pollution, inadequate access to clean drinking water and sanitation, global warming, biodiversity loss, and unsustainable water management practices.
You can conserve water, adopt sustainable practices, support organizations working on water-related issues, and advocate for responsible water policies.
Join the events and discussions, organize local awareness campaigns, donate to water-related charities, and share water conservation and management information.
UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme. (2021). The United Nations world water development report 2021: valuing water; facts and figures.