World Water Day, which is celebrated today, aims to raise awareness among communities, governments and individuals on the importance of water.
The annual celebration is coordinated by UN Habitat as per a recommendation by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, and aims to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.
Every year, World Water Day highlights a specific problem facing our fresh water resources. This year's theme — “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge” — aims to encourage communities to actively engage in addressing the challenges of urban water management.
The relationship between water and cities is, in fact, extremely important, considering how vital water is to the location and growth of cities. According to the UN Water Program: “Evidence available has proven that rivers like the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris and Indus enabled agricultural activities and trade to thrive, ensuring the development of some of humanity's most recognized civilizations.”
However, as the Program states in its World Water Day literature: “Almost 1 billion people lack access to safe water supplies, and 2.6 billion are without access to basic sanitation.”
Approximately 10 percent of all global diseases worldwide could be prevented with improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene and better water resource management.
According to Hassan Husseyn, irrigation manager at the Desert and Development Center (DDC) at the American University in Cairo (AUC), conserving our water resources is a very important issue, and the current situation, especially in Egypt and in the Middle East, is very compromised due to the scarcity of this resource and the ensuing problems among the countries that share a water agreement.
According to Husseyn, only 2 percent of the global water supply is fresh water, while the remaining 98 percent is sea water. In addition, only 1 percent of fresh water comes from rivers and lakes; the remaining 87 percent represents ice, while 12 percent is groundwater.
“Considering that Egypt depends on rivers for its water supply, the situation is clearly very difficult,” Husseyn says.
“There are a few steps in order to save water,” he explains. “Firstly, cultural awareness is very important, starting from a young age. Egyptians should be prevented from irrigating their lands with fresh water and obliged to use wastewater, and should be punished for constantly polluting the Nile with chemical products.
"Secondly, the development of an efficient irrigation system in Egypt to use the 55bn cubic metres of shared water from the Nile.
"Third, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to improve its relationship with the other African countries which form part of the Nile water Agreement.
"Finally, the Egyptian government should encourage Egyptians to cultivate these other countries’ lands to optimize the available resources, and import food from these African countries rather than from Europe.”
Every year, 1,500 cubic kilometers of wastewater are produced globally. Even though wastewater can be reused to produce energy and for irrigation, this often does not happen.