World Water Day – so what?

by Matthias Saladin, Skat / RWSN Secretariat

Today is World Water Day, but to be honest, this does not mean much to me. Not that I don’t care about water (who doesn’t?) or about the people who cannot just turn on the tap in the morning for their shower, but somehow 22nd March for me is just a day like many others in the year.

A few months ago, many media channels hailed the finding of what are believed to be indications for water on Mars. Whereas this indeed may be an important finding, it also shows how much we all focus our attention on such events: finding water on Mars, inventing the next machine which will solve all the problems of the world (and on the way turning wastewater to drinking water and energy), busily drilling new boreholes and constructing new water supply distribution networks – while not caring about the millions of boreholes drilled and thousands of water supply systems constructed in the past decades which do not function any longer (and all the inventions which somehow did not solve the problem so far). And with some 660 million people without access to improved sources of drinking water on our planet one might indeed ask why finding water – or traces of it – on a different plant would make a difference to our lives.

In spite of this rather critical view of the water sector as a whole (and I include myself here) and of the role of mass media, probably most of you would agree that there also have been significant advances in the past. Moreover, international momentum seems to be building up, with political leaders from around the world setting a new series of goals to work towards during the next 15 years. In spite of some criticism on the breadth of these goals and their seeming unreachability for many countries, there are reasons to believe that the SDGs help bringing critical issues higher on the agenda of political leaders and coordinating the activities of NGOs, donors, UN organizations, but also the private sector, academia and many local players.

One of the SDGs is to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for every person on the planet. Of the estimated 630 million people without access to improved sources of drinking water, 80% live in rural areas. That’s why the Rural Water Supply Network is the predestined platform for players in the water sector to coordinate their strategies, to contribute know-how and insights, to share experiences and to get together to make our voice being heard – and to bring the key issues to the table. We also need to talk about what’s not going right in our sector, and identify ways how this can be changed. In my experience, a network of dedicated people and organizations like RWSN can make all the difference in this task, and on the occasion of the World Water Day, I would like to point out to RWSN’s shared vision:

“A world in which all rural people have access to a sustainable and reliable water supply which can be effectively managed to provide sufficient, affordable and safe water within a reasonable distance of the home”

If all the individual and organizational members of RWSN work together towards this vision, I am sure that on future World Water Days, we feel that there really is something to celebrate – and maybe we also will find meaningful ways to celebrate this occasion.

 

Happy World Water Day!

 

Matthias Saladin

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