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World Water Day: A focus on prosperity and peace

World Water Day, celebrated annually on March 22, serves as a critical reminder of the vital importance of freshwater and the need for sustainable management of this precious resource

The day calls urgent attention to the ongoing global water crisis and encourages actions that support Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which aims for comprehensive water and sanitation for all by 2030. 

This year, the theme “Water for Prosperity and Peace” underscores the power of water in fostering growth and harmony worldwide. This initiative is led by UNESCO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Sustainable water management 

The significance of sustainable water management cannot be overstated. It brings about numerous advantages that touch every aspect of human and ecological existence. Benefits such as health, food, and energy security are directly linked to how we manage our water resources. 

Moreover, water plays a critical role in safeguarding against natural disasters, bolstering education, enhancing living standards, generating employment opportunities, propelling economic development, and supporting a vast array of ecosystem services. It’s through these comprehensive benefits that water becomes a cornerstone for prosperity.

A catalyst for peace

The value of water extends beyond prosperity; it is a catalyst for peace. The equitable distribution and sharing of water resources are fundamental in promoting peace and cooperation, especially in regions where resources are scarce or contested.

UNESCO emphasizes the importance of dialogue and cooperation in the water sector. This approach is critical, considering that over 40% of the global population resides in transboundary river basins, which collectively contain almost 60% of the world’s freshwater resources.

“Water for peace is the theme of this year’s World Water Day. Achieving it relies on far greater cooperation,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Today, 153 countries share water resources. Yet only twenty-four have reported cooperation agreements for all their shared water. We must accelerate efforts to work together across borders, and I urge all countries to join and implement the United Nations Water Convention – which promotes managing shared water resources sustainably.“

Facts about water scarcity

Water scarcity is a pressing global issue with profound impacts on both human populations and the environment. Here are some key facts about water scarcity:

Global impact

Over 2 billion people worldwide live in countries experiencing high water stress, according to the United Nations. Water stress refers to situations where the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when its use is restricted by its low quality.


Water scarcity can result from a combination of natural and human-made factors. Climate change, overuse of water resources, pollution, and increased population pressures are primary contributors. Natural factors include periods of drought and decreased rainfall.


Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater resources, accounting for about 70% of all water withdrawals globally. Inefficient water use and irrigation practices contribute significantly to water scarcity.

Economic effects of water scarcity

Water scarcity can lead to significant economic losses due to reduced crop yields, the death of livestock, and the added cost of securing water supplies. Industries that depend heavily on water, such as agriculture, textiles, and energy production, are especially vulnerable.

Health risks

Limited access to clean water increases the risk of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Water scarcity also compromises hygiene practices, further exacerbating health problems.

Environmental consequences

Overdrawing water from rivers and aquifers leads to habitat destruction for aquatic and terrestrial species. Water scarcity can also contribute to land degradation and desertification, further diminishing biodiversity.

Conflicts and migration

Water scarcity can exacerbate conflicts over resources, particularly in regions where access to water is already a contentious issue. It can also lead to migration, as communities and even entire populations move in search of more secure water sources.

Climate change

Climate change intensifies water scarcity by altering precipitation patterns, increasing the frequency of droughts, and causing glaciers and snowpacks to melt more rapidly, which affects freshwater supplies downstream.

Addressing water scarcity 

Addressing water scarcity involves a combination of strategies, including improving water use efficiency, investing in infrastructure to increase access to clean water, protecting wetlands and natural reservoirs, promoting water recycling and reuse, and implementing integrated water resources management (IWRM) approaches.

One in two people suffers from water scarcity 

“Today, one in two people around the world suffers from water scarcity for several months of the year. And in some parts of the world, this water scarcity has become the rule, rather than the exception,” said Audrey Azoulay,  Director-General of UNESCO.

“We know the consequences of such a situation: water shortages not only fan the flames of  geopolitical tensions, but also pose  a threat to fundamental rights as a  whole, for example by considerably undermining the position of girls and women.”

“Indeed, in many rural areas, girls  and women are primarily responsible for collecting water and spend several hours a day carrying out this task. In doing so, their access to education and participation in economic life is jeopardized.”

“Access to water and the preservation of water resources are therefore core challenges for our societies, requiring new ways of using and managing this precious resource.”

Water for peace: A message from the UN

In a message for World Water Day, the United Nations notes that water can create peace or spark conflict.

“When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries,” says the UN. “More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water.”

“As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, there is an urgent need, within and between countries, to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource.”

“Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle.”

World Water Day 2024

World Water Day is a call to action for governments, communities, and individuals to work together for the prosperity and peace that water can bring to our world. As we look towards the goal of water and sanitation for all by 2030, let us remember the critical role that water plays in our lives and the lives of future generations. 

This year’s theme of Water for Prosperity and Peace highlights an important revelation: the management and sharing of water resources are intrinsically linked to the well-being of individuals and communities and the overall peace and stability of societies. 


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