World Water Week 2021
August 23 – 27 2021
World Water Week and the drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda are more important that ever. This annual week long event not only brings together specialists; academia; and policy makers, but also representatives from the public and private sector; young professionals; students; NGO’s; and other interested parties to work together bridging gaps and building ideas to create change and find sustainable solutions. The World Water Week event organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute since 1991 has since gone virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but continues to be a catalyst for change regarding some of the greatest water issues across the globe.
This year’s theme for the 26th World Water Week is “Building Resilience Faster”. The focus of this theme are the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, health, the climate crisis, water scarcity including food security, and biodiversity. We will be delving in to each of these topics during the course of this week providing some information; interesting facts; and ways we can assist ourselves, our neighbours, communities, or local NGO’s to tackle water issues in our country. We have all seen and experienced the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have had on our society. These impacts further devastated areas that already face water issues/ scarcity, where communities cannot afford access to safe and reliable water and sanitation services, not to mention the homes that do not have access to basic sanitation or consistent supply of water to their community, homes, and/or schools. This further signifies the importance of this issue and the need for us all to take action and fast. The time is now.
“Water is a necessity of life and an engine for development. Through its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has proved that it has the capacity to change rapidly. We should use this momentum to transform our way of living into what is in line with reaching the sustainable development goals. Sustainable water management is an integral part of that.” - Isabella Lövin, the Swedish Minister for Environment and Climate.
Although World Water Week will address some vital topics regarding some of the world’s greatest water related issues, COVID-19 - one of the topics - has become an ever pressing issue with continued uncertainty, immense impacts over the past two years, and a continued pressure exacerbated by one of the most important issues we all face being the climate crises. The ongoing climate crises and more recent impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed a disproportionate pressure on communities already suffering from other global crises, and have demonstrated just how these issues affect the lives of everyone across the world and how vulnerable the water and sanitation management systems are.
In saying this the top regulation in protecting yourself and those around you from the spread of the COVID-19 virus (besides mask wearing) is the correct washing and sanitizing of hands. However, nearly one third of the world’s population lacks access to a reliable and safe water supply for sanitation and drinking. Although this has become more prevalent and the consequences of this have become more heightened, it remains a top priority to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030” - Sustainable Development Goal 6. The healthcare system is further impacted by this lack of reliable and safe water supply and sanitation facilities/ services through the potential risk of no access, reliability, environmental impacts, water-related disease, and ultimate impact of people’s health especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided critical lessons in building resilient communities who value water and represent the need to continue to invest in improved reliable and safe water and sanitation for communities around the world who desperately need it. The issue further lies in that over $100 billion dollars are required to close the global water sector gap in developing countries each year until we reach the set out Sustainable Development Goals in 2030. However, the investments into this have since dramatically slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen a predicted decline with an average of 27% of industrial water demand as well as the impacts of lockdown/s and travel restrictions on water demand.
South Africa as an example has addressed immediate issues through the setup of water supply points across the country for drinking water and hand washing. “Water and sanitation projects also form part of economic stimulus public expenditures”. The importance of reliable and safe water and sanitation services have become ever more clear in response to the pandemic and critical lessons around re-prioritizing the water sector due to the lack of prioritization of water and underfunding of water sector issues across the globe must be improved upon. If anything the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of access to reliable and safe water and sanitation.