We need to talk about water

By Sarah Selig

We need to talk about water

This year’s World Water Day focuses on how water and jobs are intrinsically linked in people’s lives. UN-Water and the International Labour Organization have joined forces to ignite an important conversation about water, work and sanitation.

Water and jobs

It is not unusual to think of the agricultural or fishery sectors as industries affected by water availability. But in fact, a staggering 50% of all workers on Earth are employed in water-related sectors. Unfortunately, millions of people who work in industries dependent on water are not adequately protected by basic labour rights.

The impact of poor water and sanitation conditions

  • About 75% of households in sub-Saharan Africa collect water away from home. Fetching, boiling and straining 25 litres of water, three times a day can be an onerous and dangerous task especially for women in communities marred by violence.
  • In East Sepik, children consistently suffer from severe abdominal and vomiting due to poor sanitation.
  • It is reported that teenage girls in developing nations, such as Papua New Guinea, struggle to participate in education due to lack of hygienic facilities at school.
  • 38 factory workers die every hour in workplaces across the globe due to unsafe water practices.
  • An estimated 40% of the globe’s economically active population work in agriculture, fishery or hunting. Yet only 20% are employed as waged workers.

Initiatives attached to World Water Day and UN-Water can help change these conditions. Better quality water equates to better pay, health and more decent jobs.

How better water is transforming people’s lives

Educating individuals to work towards sustainable water management empowers communities to take control of the quality of their water and health.

  • Barbara Lopi collects, documents and disseminates information about water resources as a part of her role in the Water Sector at the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community. She explains that her work goes some way to help, “Promote trans-boundary cooperation,” thus contributing to a greener international economy.
  • In Nigeria, community local Zainabu has been named, “The Ironlady” after positively impacting community health in her role as Director of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation in Bakori, Nigeria. She is proud to report that, “You can really see a difference in communities – diarrhoea and vomiting have decreased drastically in the last few years.”
  • In the developed states of the US, Izaiaih Bokunewicz from the State College Area High School in Pennsylvania has developed a vertical farming system to approach issues of agricultural water sustainability. He explains, “Our crops are provided with water, one drop at a time.” The project is a step toward conservation, providing environmental protection and long-term employment opportunities.

Conditions can be changed and along with them people’s lives change. Access to clean water is a human right yet still one in ten people lack access to safe water. Raising awareness of water-related issues particularly with relation to water and jobs is hoped to inspire action.

5 water initiatives we love

The Detroit Water Project – Kristy Tillman and Tiffani Bell

  •  Raising funds to switch on water for those who are unable to pay bills to enable access to what should be a fundamental human right.

Ryan’s Well – Ryan Hreljac

  • An organisation established in 2001 by a 6 year-old boy has changed the lives of over 1 million people through the development of 992 community-led clean water projects.

The Drinkable Book – Water Is Life

  • A book used as a filter for those in rural area to kill deadly waterborne diseases by providing the reader with an opportunity to create clean, drinkable water from each page.

2016 Water Challenge –WaterAid

  • Encourages people to improve their health by drinking just water and walking for water to fund lifesaving water initiatives in developing countries.

WASH Development Online Training – International Water Centre

  • Provides participants in Queensland, Australia with the fundamental principles, approaches and needs of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.

The United Nations World Water Development Report 2016 will be released later today.



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