World Water Day 2020: Water and Climate Change

Meaghan O'Neil
16 March 2020

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The United Nations held the first World Water Day in 1993, setting a goal for everyone to have access to clean water. They want to ensure this goal is met as well as sustainable freshwater treatment and management for all by 2030. Water is important not just for drinking, but also cooking, cleaning dishes and clothes, putting out fires, bathing, and using toilets. It's also fun to use for swimming in pools, lakes, or the ocean.

The ocean is vital in maintaining climate. Currents absorb heat from the atmosphere and they affect cloud formation and precipitation by transporting heat from tropical seas to colder areas. Oceans also absorb and evaporate carbon dioxide, helping regulate the high temperatures created by the greenhouse effect.

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Photo by LucyKaef from Pixabay

Climate change affects water across the globe. Melting ice caps create rising water levels, threatening to submerge islands and coastal regions. Severe droughts occur more frequently, denying water to people for long amounts of time. Extreme weather events can lead to flooding, leaving dirty water, which creates potential areas for mosquitoes and disease. Extended dry seasons, in addition to unpredictable rainfall and snowmelt, deny people and wildlife in these regions their timely water access.

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Photo by Fearscare from Pixabay

There are many things that can be done to help lessen the effects of climate change on this precious resource.  Creating laws to protect sources of freshwater keeps water clean, relying less on water sanitation plants and therefore less energy spent, leading to fewer carbon emissions.  Conserving water aids in this, too, creating less wastewater that needs to be cleaned.

Refusing to use bottled water is a powerful way to help.  Bottled water companies use fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases to create the plastic bottles, and shipping them adds more carbon emissions. They also tend to use water in a less regulated manner, draining aquifers even in the midst of drought, ironically selling local people's own water back to them at a high profit. In addition, it even takes more water to make a plastic bottle than it does to fill it. Consider using a water filter if you think your tap water is unsafe.

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Here are some other ways to help:

Take part in a stream or waterway cleanup - This prevents litter from reaching reservoirs and the ocean, where it can be destructive to wildlife.

Avoid plastic containers - Invest in a glass or steel water bottle, use bar soap instead of dispensed, and bring reusable bags to the grocery store (and department store, etc).

Organize a screening of a water-centered climate change documentary - Before the Flood, Mission Blue, Chasing Ice, Tapped, Thirst, and Frozen Planet are some suggestions. Several are available for free on YouTube; others are on Netflix in certain regions.

Reduce daily water usage so less dirty water needs to be treated. Wait to do laundry till you have a full load. Turn off the faucet when scrubbing dishes until you need to rinse them. Fix any leaky faucets or toilets. Check the weather before watering outdoor plants: some rain might do the job for you.

Visit Free the Ocean and click to have one piece of plastic removed from the sea per day.

Click this link for a short action video on how water can fight climate change.

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