Campus Ecosystems: World Water Day raises awareness of water rights

About 2.2 billion people are living without safe water

The United Nations delcared having access to water a human right in 2010. (Keet Kailey)

The United Nations delcared having access to water a human right in 2010. (Keet Kailey)

Water runs through our taps, under the ground, and sits in the sky forming fluffy white shapes that eventually fall back down as rain. It’s all around, and plays the most important role in our lives whether we like it or not. 

World Water Day is a United Nations annual observance day to raise awareness of the management of freshwater that has occurred on March 22 every year since 1993. 

In 2010, the UN declared having access to water as a human right, and since then has estimated there are currently 2.2 billion people living without safe water. The focus of World Water Day is to achieve water and sanitation for all by 2030. 

“Human rights issues are competing for the attention of the people. We sometimes need a hallmark event to focus us … because it helps remind us,” says Dr. Ross Michael Pink, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political science instructor. 

Approximately 97 per cent of the earth’s water is saltwater, meaning only three per cent is freshwater, according to the Central California Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation.

After the UN declared a world water day, Pink says governments started changing domestic legislation to conform with the UN’s declaration. 

“If they’re signatory to the United Nations, then they have an obligation to subsume international law as best they can into domestic law,” Pink says. 

Unfortunately, Canada is guilty of not providing clean drinking water to all inhabitants of this land, as there are still 36 long-term drinking water advisories in 29 First Nation communities despite concerns of illness related to the water quality. 

Each year the UN focuses on a different water-related theme, and this year the theme is groundwater. The campaign will focus on the role of water, sanitation systems, agriculture, industry, ecosystems, and climate adaptation. 

Groundwater is found in underground aquifers, “geological formations of rocks, sands and gravels that hold substantial quantities of water,” reads the UN’s page for World Water Day this year. 

In British Columbia, our freshwater used for domestic purposes comes mostly from groundwater. Data from 2019 on B.C.’s groundwater levels found that up to one million British Columbians consume groundwater, and 11 wells are in a “large rate of decline” and seven wells are in a “moderate rate of decline” of the 121 total wells in the province. 

Through three phases of solid, liquid, and gas, water ties the essential components of Earth’s climate together. The water cycle is a continuous movement of water from the ground to the atmosphere. 

It’s a loop of rainwater, transpiration, evaporation, and rain again. Water moves through the atmosphere, flows across land, is absorbed into the ground, evaporates from plants and back into the atmosphere. 

“Groundwater is essential. People don’t realize everything you put on the lawns, in the sidewalk, when you wash your car, when you throw chemicals down the toilet, it all goes into the watersheds,” Pink says. 

To be water-conscious this year, Pink suggests talking with friends and family about water issues to raise more awareness and educate. We can also reuse our towels a couple of times before washing, take shorter showers, and remove the use of chemicals and plastic waste. 

“We’ve got to focus ourselves on human rights issues, and out of all of them, water is the biggest,” Pink says.