August 9, 2022

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World Water Day: Everything You Need To Know

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World Water Day is celebrated on 22nd March each year. It is an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The theme of each day focuses on topics relevant to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), which is in line with the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6. The UN World Water Development Report (WWDR) is released each year around World Water Day.

UN-Water is the convener for World Water Day and selects the theme for each year in consultation with UN organizations that share an interest in that year’s focus. The theme for 2021 was “Valuing Water” and “a conversation about what water means to you”.

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In the year before, in 2020, the theme was “Water and Climate Change”. Previous themes for the years 2016 to 2019 were “Water and Jobs'”, “Why waste water?” and “Nature for Water”. “Leaving no one behind”.

World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature. The day can also include campaigns to raise money for water projects. The first World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, was in 1993.

History behind celebration:

This day was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. In December 1992, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/47/193 by which 22 March of each year was declared World Day for Water.

In 1993, the first World Water Day was observed. The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/47/193(link is external) of 22 December 1992 by which 22 March of each year was declared World Day for Water, to be observed starting in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) contained in Chapter 18(link is external) (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21(link is external). States were invited to devote the Day, as appropriate in the national context, to concrete activities such as the promotion of public awareness through the publication and diffusion of documentaries and the organization of conferences, round tables, seminars and expositions related to the conservation and development of water resources.

One estimate of global water distribution:

(Percents are rounded, so will not add to 100)

Water sourceWater volume, in cubic milesWater volume, in cubic kilometersPercent of
freshwater
Percent of
total water
Oceans, Seas, & Bays321,000,0001,338,000,00096.54
Ice caps, Glaciers, & Permanent Snow5,773,00024,064,00068.71.74
Groundwater5,614,00023,400,0001.69
    Fresh2,526,00010,530,00030.1  0.76
    Saline3,088,00012,870,000  0.93
Soil Moisture3,95916,5000.050.001
Ground Ice & Permafrost71,970300,0000.860.022
Lakes42,320176,4000.013
    Fresh21,83091,0000.260.007
    Saline20,49085,4000.006
Atmosphere3,09512,9000.040.001
Swamp Water2,75211,4700.030.0008
Rivers5092,1200.0060.0002
Biological Water2691,1200.0030.0001

2021 Theme:

The theme of World Water Day 2021 is valuing water. The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. SDG 6 is to ensure water and sanitation for all. Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone.