World Water Day – 22nd March 2023

This global campaign encourages people to take action in their lives to change how they use, consume and manage water.

A Priceless Resource

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Albatrosses flying over a wild sea

Water is the most precious resource we have on this planet. Mankind cannot survive without water. Yet we ignore it, waste it, poison it, pollute it, and use it foolishly. We seem to believe it will stay pure and last forever, no matter how many people live on the planet and how badly they treat it.

It Will Not!

Water covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface and 97% of that is salt water. So, the percentage of fresh water seems small when we look at our ever-expanding population and our increasing carelessness.

Water is precious to us and to the creatures with which we share the planet, for a number of reasons.

Let’s start with our oceans.

Oceans feed us, regulate our climate, and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. They also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping.

But now they face huge threats as the result of human activity, for example with plastic waste, overfishing threatening fish stocks, Climate Change killing coral reefs and the effect of pollution from fertiliser run-off from farms and from human wastewater.

The Good News

The good news is that after decades of arguments the world has finally come to an agreement on protecting our oceans.

This is what Greenpeace had to say:

“This is huge! After years of campaigning and a tense final week of negotiations, world leaders have put aside their differences and finally secured a historic Global Ocean Treaty. This puts us on a path to potentially save our oceans from the brink of disaster.”

The High Seas Treaty aims to help place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030 to safeguard them and allow marine nature to recuperate. This is great! But as citizens we need to keep politicians on their toes and ensure they stick to their promises. They are not good at that.

The bad news is that as long as global temperatures continue to rise, the oceans will become more and more acidic and hotter, threatening marine life. They will also be less able to absorb the carbon dioxide we desperately need them to absorb.

Too Little Water

A dry river bed

Climate Change is contributing to modern droughts, making them more frequent, longer, and more severe. This is impacting human communities, agriculture, plants and animals and creating many challenges in those environments.

According to the United States Geological Survey: droughts don’t just affect water stored in wetlands, lakes, and rivers, but also water below ground stored in aquifers and in the soil. Snow-melt in the past has kept many communities in water over the summer but due to increasing temperatures snow is melting earlier onto hard ground. That water can now often be lost.

According to WHO 700 million people are at risk of being displaced by 2030 by drought and for many right now the devastation and suffering from food and water shortages is enormous.

An issue for the longer term is the melting of the glaciers due to increasing global temperatures. Unesco, in a recent report, says this will cause water scarcity for millions of people (as well as flooding and losing their homes). This is a worldwide problem. However, they have also said that “This report is a call to action. Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions levels can save glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them.” This is a responsibility for all of us.

Too Much Water

Houses and cars in floodwater

Recent floods in Pakistan have destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, schools, and health facilities. While these particular floods were very severe and the consequences more long-lasting, there have been major floods worldwide over the last few years. Climate Change has increased the intensity of weather conditions, so we are having more severe storms, more drastic flooding, and deeper and longer-term droughts and of course heatwaves.

Wasted, Spoiled and Badly Used Water

A dripping tap wasting water

A recent report has suggested that in the US they can waste about 900 billion gallons of water a year. If my arithmetic is correct that is about 3,400,000,000,000 litres of water WASTED!

According to USGS globally we waste about 1.7 trillion gallons of water. I won’t even bother to convert that it is so outrageous.

Water is spoiled, e.g. by sewage, not just in the UK but globally vast amounts of contaminated water is discharged each year into the ocean and into rivers. Run-off from agriculture also contaminates our waters and can be responsible for huge algal blooms that take oxygen out of the water and kill all living creatures underneath.

Water for agricultural irrigation accounts for about 70% of water use worldwide. If pumped intensively from underground aquifers it depletes them and builds up problems for the longer term. Many of these aquifers take thousands of years to refill.

Countries have taken what seems like crazy decisions on their water use, Saudi Arabia grew wheat in the desert, California uses huge amounts of water to grow almonds and alfalfa, cotton growing is very water intensive. It seems that it takes 10,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of cotton. (250 billion tons of water in a year globally). The production of rice, sugarcane and wheat are also water intensive and of course meat production uses huge amounts of water.

Examples of Human Interference in the Water Cycle


Forests draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they also act as giant reservoirs of water. By reducing the number of trees, deforestation disturbs the ability of the forest to recycle the water which then leads to lower rainfall, global warming and Climate Change. The Amazon Rain Forest and the huge Tropical Forest in the DRC are under threat, the first from cattle grazing in cleared forest and the second for its mineral resources. This is an enormous danger to the sustainability of life on Earth.


The environmental effect of huge dams can be enormous. They are often seen as a renewable source of energy and of water for a needy populace but they can cause serious damage to nearby ecosystems. See for example this report from a German source:

“Downstream ecosystems rely not only on water, but also on sediment, both of which are held back by big dams. As solid materials build up in a manmade reservoir, downstream land becomes less fertile and riverbeds can become deeper or even erode away. Emilio Moran, a professor of geography and environment at Michigan State University in the US, described sediment loss of 30 to 40% as a result of large dams. Rivers carry sediment that feeds the fish, it feeds the entire vegetation along the river. So, when you stop sediment flowing freely down the streams, you have a dead river.”

What Can We Do to Protect our Water?

  • Avoid waste
  • Complain if we see water running in the street
  • Manage our water use better
  • Eat less meat
  • Eat organic when we can
  • Find farmers that limit their use of fertilisers and buy from them
  • Buy organic cotton clothes
  • Collect the cold water while waiting for it to become hot
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth
  • Stop using fossil fuels
  • Use your car as little as possible
  • Only fly when you have to
  • Keep writing to your politicians to keep them to their Climate Targets.

(Photographs above are all on Unsplash 1. by Fer Nando, 2. by Matt Palmer, 3. by Chris Gallagher, 4. by Luis Tosta)

New blog notification

If you would like to be on a list to receive future blogs, please leave me your details

* indicates required