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Global environmental concerns highlighted on World Water Day

March 22nd, 2024

By Karen Sweaney, Editor, Australasian Leisure Management

March 22 was World Water Day - an international campaign supported by the United Nations that aims to draw attention to the value of fresh water for the environment and the need to fight its scarcity globally, because currently about 2.2 billion people still lack access to clean drinking water.

In 2024, the theme is Leveraging Water for Peace.

A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Communities, need to continually be reminded about the importance of using water sustainably, for as WaterAid Australia highlights, that while a sustainable supply of clean water for drinking, washing, cooking and cleaning is a human right, many countries don’t have taps, wells and pipes delivering clean water. The cost of this is enormous and it’s not just in monetary terms - there is also the profound human cost of water.

WaterAid Australia notes that “In Papua New Guinea, 5.1 million people - half the population - don't have clean water close to home. Children in these contexts are forced to consume unsafe water, leading to illnesses from waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea. In Papua New Guinea, over 350 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by dirty water, poor toilets and no hygiene facilities.”

With nearly 40% of the global population living near coastlines, the urgency to protect vulnerable ecosystems and infrastructures is at an all-time high.

Coastal environments and communities face risks from rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events. Low-lying areas and islands are particularly affected - a single hurricane can devastate an island’s economy.

Coastal regions can bolster their resilience by the restoration and safeguarding of coastal ecosystems which provide essential services including a natural defence against water hazards.

Mangroves, for instance, can reduce wave energy by up to 66%. Seagrass beds reduce wave energy by up to 85% and coral reefs by as much as 97%. The absence of coral reefs could double flood-related damages and triple costs from frequent storms.

Climate change is making it even harder for the world's most vulnerable people to get clean water as with more frequent and extreme flooding, fragile water sources become polluted. Longer droughts are also drying up springs.

Australian Marine Conservation Society along with a number of environmental organisations have been calling on the Australian government to do more to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

AMCS advises “The IPCC assessment warns governments must enact stronger, deeper and faster climate action now to secure a liveable blue planet. Current climate plans have failed to stop ocean heating and mass bleaching events.:

Australia has sometimes been viewed as having short-term thinking when it comes to sustainable water management.

University of New South Wales Professor Stuart Khan told the Australian Water Association that the value of water has historically been unrecognised until a crisis - such as the COVID-19 pandemic or a drought - occurs, and World Water Day is a great time to re-evaluate thinking around water management.

Professor Khan shared “In terms of looking at sustainable water supply, such as cities running short during droughts, Aussies have short memories.

“When it happens, it is front of mind and everyone is looking for solutions - solutions that may that take decades to enact - but as soon as urgency goes away and the hardship is over we tend to deprioritise and forget.

“So now is a great day to drum into all Australians that long term sustainable water management is something we need to prioritise, it’s something that needs constant planning to shore up supplies when things can change quickly.”

This week, the Northern Territory Government advised that water quality testing efficiency in remote areas of the Northern Territory will improve as part of a new, innovative project being led by a Darwin business -Think Water.

Based in Coolalinga, Think Water is collaborating with environmental technology business, Eco Detection, and Darwin-based tank manufacturer, Terracorp Industries, to commercialise a water testing system which will address water testing issues, such as bacteria and heavy metals that collectively are present in more than 400 communities across Australia.

The collaboration will bring together Eco Detection’s award-winning Ion-Q+ monitor, a filtration system from Think Water, and a water storage tank manufactured by Terracorp Industries.

Three integrated prototype systems will then undergo six-month trials at three different remote locations to determine the effectiveness and suitability for remote regions.

In New Zealand, there is the acknowledgement that “water is life and we all have an obligation to care for our waterways.”

Kaipara Moana Remediation programme and Mountain to Sea Conservation Trust’s Wai Connection program are finalising a partnership to better nurture the health of water in the Kaipara Moana catchment.

Both programs have already worked together on community planting days alongside waterways in Paparoa and Parakai, and a soon to be signed Memorandum of Understanding will formalise efforts towards more collaborations around boosting waterway health in the Kaipara Moana.

MidCoast Council, located in the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales is celebrating World Water Day with the launch of the Water Wiser Hub.

The new online resource provides a range of useful tips and tools to help MidCoast residents save water inside and outside their homes.

Council's executive manager of water and systems, Marnie Coates, says World Water Day was the perfect time to launch the hub and noted "one of the things we consistently heard when we were developing our recent long-term water strategy, Our Water Our Future 2050, was that we needed to keep educating our community about the importance of using water sustainably.

"Our new Water Wiser Hub is one of a number of initiatives we've been working on to help empower our community members to make sustainable, water efficient choices, and it's something we'll continue to focus on into the future."

SPASA Australia chief executive Lindsay McGrath highlights “we all love to swim, from the smallest back yard pool or spa to the biggest aquatic centre. Being in the water is such a natural state to deliver relaxation, fun, sport, enjoyment. The industry behind water knows how important it is to save this precious resource for generational enjoyment.”

By The Splash Team
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