International Year of Water Cooperation

Two boys carrying water

As the year draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the International Year of Water Cooperation. 2013 was declared the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC), allowing the international community to recognise the importance of peaceful and sustainable management and use of water resources. Not only is water cooperation and security essential for life but will be a cornerstone to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Goal 7 of the MDGs addresses environmental sustainability, with a target to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. This was one of the first targets to be met in 2010, saving thousands of lives each day and is an extraordinary achievement when considering how far behind many of the other MDGs are.

Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to drinking water. However, the job is far from over with significant ongoing work still to be done to ensure that improved sources of water remain safe, sustainable and reliable.

At least 783 million people, 11 per cent of the world’s population, still rely on unsafe drinking water. Drinking water is only half the battle with sanitation still far from target with 2.5 billion people still lacking access to improved sanitation facilities. It is unlikely that we will reach the goal by 2015.

Meeting goals ahead of a deadline is never a bad thing, but declaring victory before the fight is truly over can be unwise. There is still much to be done around the world as China drove a great deal of the progress, skewing the data with its size. This obscured problems in Africa where over 40 per cent of all people without improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa where poverty rates, infant mortality rates, and maternal mortality rates remain troublingly high. Drinking water sources remain unimproved in many of the poorest and remote areas.  The next step must be to target the most difficult to reach, the poorest and the most disadvantaged people across the world.

Providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources is one of the most important things we can do to reduce disease. Every day more than 3,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases. Achieving this goal will go a long way to saving children’s lives, and impact on every aspect of their lives.

Improvements in water quality and sanitation are also fundamental in achieving other MDGs. Clean water and sanitation leads to a reduction in child mortality, a decrease in the incidence of major infectious diseases, improvement of maternal health and improvement of the quality of life of slum populations.

Where water supplies are not readily accessible, the burden of carrying water falls disproportionately on women and girls. Improved water and sanitation also contributes to gender equality and empowers women, being linked to school enrolment and attendance, especially of girls.

Reduction in poverty and hunger comes through the use of water supply for industry and agriculture, saving time in accessing closer water sources and sanitation facilities, and contributes to workforce health. Importantly, improved water supply and sanitation promote economic equity, since those without access to clean water tend to be the poorer, more vulnerable members of society.

This hardly skims the surface of an incredibly challenging global issue which is near impossible for many of us to fathom. In line with the IYWC goal of cooperation and support, refillit proudly supports and donates $1 to WaterAid for every bottle sold. If you’re looking for some present ideas or branded workplace bottles this Christmas, check out refillit.

We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences about how else drinking water and sanitation can help enrich peoples lives – tell us below.