Citizens of the United States take the liberal use of water for granted and have done so for many years. It isn't that way everywhere. With the population of the world rapidly expanding, the wise use of water on our planet becomes increasingly vital.
In 1993, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) declared March 22 as the first World Water Day. This is an international day dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of safe water worldwide.
The UN realized that modern technological methods are going to be necessary for long-term solutions; however, solving the problem of the poorest people who don't have access to clean water, safe sanitation, or latrines is the most-pressing crisis.
On March 22, 2007, the World Water Day theme was "Coping with water scarcity." This theme is self-explanatory. International conflicts center on the deterioration of ground water and the quality of surface water. Another problem is the contrast between demand and availability. All of these difficulties center on the question of how to solve the dilemma of water scarcity.
The March 22 WWD theme for 2008 was "Sanitation", a problem that's easy to understand but difficult to solve. The UN General Assembly expressed concern because of the slow and ineffective progress in improving the planet's sanitation.
Some of the sanitation problems that need solutions include:
(1) Sanitary facilities (2) Water quality (3) Wastewater treatment (4) Sewage systems (5) International policies and (6) International information on sanitation.
In today's world, one out of every eight people in the world don't have access to safe water; that's a staggering statistic for those of us who have always considered unlimited water use a right, not a privilege.
Unlike many differences between nations, cooperation rather than conflict has been the norm in the problem of safe and plentiful water for all. During the 20th century, there have been just seven minor skirmishes involving violence; in that same period, over 300 water-use treaties have been signed.
As a historical entity, WWD is a newcomer on the world's stage. But the UN's mission, considering the dire straits of the earth's water supply, is not only important but also indispensable to the well being of the citizens of our planet.
A clean and safe water supply is one of the few international problems that all countries can work in harmony to solve. But the U.S. government should insist that all nations share equally in the financing of an international safe-water policy. The days of the U.S. footing all the bills are gone.
World Water Day has a short history, but this is the type endeavor where the United Nations can excel. The wise use of the earth's water supply is a worthy cause for all concerned.