“Water is life and in order to save life on our planet, we need to first save water.”
Warm wishes on the occasion of World Water Day to all
World Water Day, held on March 22nd every year since 1993, celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people living without access to safe water.
SDG 6: Water and Sanitation for all by 2030 is the main focus of World Water Day. If we humans are not cautious about the amount of water we are using every day and if we do not consciously minimise our water habits, there is a very real threat of groundwater reserves becoming irreparably damaged in critical areas.
Theme in 2022
“Groundwater: making the invisible visible” is the theme of World Water Day this year. Well, what exactly does this mean?
Ground water is invisible since it is below the surface of the earth, but the impact of this, the most precious gift of Nature can be felt everywhere in our lives. After precipitation, groundwater seeps down from the surface of the soil to the cracks in rocks and in the gaps in porous soil to form aquifers. An aquifer is a body of porous rock saturated with groundwater. It naturally filters groundwater by forcing it to pass through small pores and between sediments, which helps to remove substances from the water.
This brings to my mind an experiment where SI Madurai had collaborated with school students to successfully complete a project on purifying water for drinking, in an organic and economical way by using pebbles, rice husk and carbonized rice husk. The children learnt two lessons in this. Not only did they learn how ground water seeps down through the porous rocks but they also found an inexpensive organic way of filtering impure water.
Groundwater provides 50% of all drinking water, more than 40% of irrigation water and a third of the industrial sector’s global need for water.
It can stay underground for hundreds of thousands of years, or it can come to the surface and help fill rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Groundwater can be artificially pumped up after digging wells and deep tube wells. Here is a picture of an old well in the arid Moroccan desert.
The United Nations has taken the stance that “water services must meet the needs of marginalised groups and their voices must be heard in the decision-making process.” No one must be left behind.
With global warming, climate change, sea levels rising, not only does the quantity but also the quality of groundwater get negatively impacted. Once salt water from rising sea levels invades the aquifers in low lying coastal regions, it becomes practically impossible to reverse the damage. That is why we must think of ways and means to recharge groundwater through rain water harvesting.
It is imperative that all of us educate ourselves about the different water challenges in different regions. Groundwater can become depleted if we use it at a faster rate than it can replenish itself. Depletion of aquifers has increased primarily due to expanding agricultural irrigation, a consequence of population explosion.
Another threat to groundwater is pollution by fertilisers, pesticides, and the waste from septic tanks, all of which can seep down into aquifers from the surface of the soil. In such situations toxic materials seep through the soil into the aquifer.
If water is not extracted in a sustainable manner, the water table may drop permanently. This is starting to be the case around the world. Some of the largest sources of groundwater are being depleted in India, China, and the United States to the point where they cannot be replenished.
Groundwater, an invisible resource, faces many challenges. Jenny Gronwall from Stockholm International Water Institute says that: “Even today, with vastly improved sources of data, groundwater governance suffers from large knowledge and awareness gaps…”
In order to address this gap, many SI clubs have done several awareness campaigns. SI Dublin, to raise funds for WaterAid, started putting a coin in a jar whenever someone turned a tap on or flushed the toilet on World Water Day. Each Club member had a set of challenges e.g. to calculate how much water was used each day and to see if the amount could be reduced. Members were also challenged to carry two litres of water on their daily walk so that they could appreciate how women in the developing world walk long distances to the well to get water and carry it home for their family’s needs.
SI Calcutta launched Project AMRITDHARA to tackle the problems of inadequate supply of clean and fresh drinking water. A Drinking Water Purification Filter was installed in Pukurberia village in the low-lying coastal region of Kakdwip in West Bengal, India to help the local community access clean drinking water more easily.
Though invisible, groundwater must be on our minds, at top of the mind recall, at all times in order to bring water and sanitation to everyone by 2030. We aim to do it and WE CAN!