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World Water Day 2013

March 22, 2013
Manhattan skyline in the view ©RohithRoy

Manhattan skyline in the view ©Rohith Roy

As a sustainable development professional, the month of March makes me really happy. March not only marks the beginning of spring for all of us but also personally makes me  jump with joy. There are so many annual events celebrated within this month based on environmental issues, especially water; International day of rivers/forests, the Earth Hour (tomorrow) and World Water Day (today) to name a few.  This year any celebration related to water is especially significant since 2013 is being celebrated as the International Year of Water Cooperation by the UN (Please refer to my earlier post).


Infographic from the Bath Shop 2013 with some water related facts ©BathShop2013

Today seems to be an apt day to reflect upon the situations that face us today in terms of water and sanitation issues worldwide:

If you look at all the water in the world you’d find that:

  • 97.5% of it is saltwater and therefore cannot be used for drinking water (it could be desalinated, but this is costly and takes a lot of energy, plus you need to find something to do with all the brine, a byproduct of the process).
  • The remaining 2.5% is fresh water, however, 70% of that is frozen in ice caps, and almost 30% is locked deep underground. 
  • This means less than 1% of the world’s fresh water is easily accessible to humans via lakes, shallow aquifers, rivers, streams and the like.
  • 3.4 million people die every year from water and sanitation related diseases, which is like the entire population of Los Angeles dying.  99% of these deaths are in developing nations.
  • 780 million people, about 2.5 times the population of the US, do not have access to clean and safe water.  40% of these people are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Children suffer the most.  Waterborne diseases kill 4,500 children EVERY DAY on average.
  • Think war is bad- The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives every year than any war does.
  • Next time you’re enjoying your shower think of this: the average American taking a five minute shower (and I would guess most Americans take showers that last longer than five minutes) uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses (or has access to) in an entire day.
  • Do you like going for a daily walk? On average women and girls in developing countries walk 3.7 miles (6 km) every day to fetch water, and carry 20 liters (a little over 5 gallons) of water back to their home.
    • 20 liters of water weighs 44 lbs.  Think you could walk almost 2 miles carrying 44 lbs?  Try it and let me know how it goes.
    • The hours spent fetching water could be used to go to school, go to work, attend to the household chores, grow crops…basically anything.  People cannot escape poverty if they don’t have the time to get educated or hold a job and make a living. (Please refer to my previous blog post “The World’s costliest water”)
  • The US is in the midst of the biggest drought in recent memories. The seven states in the US have been declared to be running out of water. To read more please click here.

The Way Forward:

The picture looks dismal and we have a long way to go towards solving all the problems listed above. We can easily sit hand on hand and do nothing except to depend on the scientists, engineers and policy makers to solve these problems on their own. However a proactive approach, even if taken at someone’s personal level, could contribute towards improving the situation. For starters, we can start by calculating our water footprint. To know more about how to go about doing this, please click here. Last but not the least effort should be to spread the word. Please share, circulate the information far and wide. Do it amongst your friends, families, workplace, community, educational institutions and so on. As an old African Proverb goes “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

This blog post has been adopted from the original article, which appeared on ‘Hydrate Life’ today. To read the original article, please click here.

  1. Hi Pallavi,

    Really interesting water stats that you published here.

    The infographic you included in your blog post was actually created by ourselves at Bathshop321, and not the UN (I can see why you thought that, though!). There is a lot more detail about our involvement in 2013’s World Water Day at the following page:

    Best wishes,


  2. Hi Keiron,
    Thanks a lot for your message and clarification.
    It shows that my blog posts are getting attention now.
    I noted in my caption as I adopted the inforgraph from the original article on “Hydrate Life” and did not know better.
    Please check as I have made amends now.
    Thanks a lot for your feedback and continue to write for making my blog better.


  3. No problem, thanks Pallavi! Keep up the good work 🙂


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  1. World Water Day 2013 | theflipsideofdevelopment
  2. World Water Day 2015 #Waterisliberating | theflipsideofdevelopment

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