World Water Day 2017: Wastewater

Author: Ashley Benedict

World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030, making water a key issue in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22 as World Water Day. World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.

Why wastewater?

Globally, the vast majority of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or reused – polluting the environment, and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials. Wastewater continues to be produced at an increasing rate due to increases in population, but our treatment of waste water is seriously lacking.

Here are some statistics from this Factsheet on the World Water Day website:

  • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
  • 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
  • Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.
  • 663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources.
  • By 2050, close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 50% today5 . Currently, most cities in developing countries do not have adequate infrastructure and resources to address wastewater management in an efficient and sustainable way.
  • The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.
  • The costs of wastewater management are greatly outweighed by the benefits to human health, economic development and environmental sustainability – providing new business opportunities and creating more ‘green’ jobs
  • By 2030, global demand for water is expected to grow by 50%

How to reduce & reuse your wastewater

Instead of wasting wastewater, we need to reduce and reuse it. In our homes, we can reuse greywater on our gardens and plots. In our cities, we can treat and reuse wastewater for green spaces. In industry and agriculture, we can treat and recycle discharge for things like cooling systems and irrigation.

We’re all wasters when it comes to wastewater. Every time we use water, we produce wastewater. And instead of reusing it, we let 80% of it just flow down the drain. We all need to reduce and reuse wastewater as much as we can. Here are three ideas for all us wasters:

  1. Turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth or doing dishes or scrubbing vegetables. Otherwise you’re just making wastewater without even using it!
  2. Put rubbish, oils, chemicals, and food in the bin, not down the drain. The dirtier your wastewater, the more energy and money it costs to treat it.
  3. Collect used water from your kitchen sink or bathtub and use it on plants and gardens, and to wash your bike or car.

By exploiting this valuable resource, we will make the water cycle work better for every living thing. And we will help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6 target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse.

Want to know whether you’re a waster? Take this quick quiz.

Here is a short video on how wastewater is reused. Below is a video on how we can further reuse our wastewater:

The water passing through us and our homes is on a journey through the water cycle. By reducing the quantity and pollution of our wastewater, and by safely reusing it as much as we can, we’re all helping to protect our most precious resource.

Everyone involved in development cooperation is being urged by a UN expert to work together to ensure that the human rights of water and sanitation are available to all people around the world.

The appeal comes from the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, on World Water Day and aims to shed light on the key role of development cooperation in the realization of the rights to water and sanitation. Read the full UN Human Rights article here.

Interested in learning more? Check out these stories!

 All information found from the World Water Day website. All credit goes to the authors. 

How do you plan on reducing and reusing your wastewater? Are there any other ways you currently take action to conserve our freshwater? Let us know by sending in work, comments, and questions to gvsufeministvoices@gmail.com

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