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World Day for Water

March 26th, 2009

To underscore both the potential dangers of “water wars” in places that are home to 40 percent of the world’s population – and the promising opportunities for cooperation and development – the United Nations marked the World Day for Water on 22 March with a focus on trans-boundary waters and their management.

“The amount of water we have has remained constant for thousands of years, while the number and types of users have increased massively… population growth, urbanization, land use changes, and global warming … are creating competing pressures on this finite resource,” says UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in his remarks marking World Water Day. “As a result, the amount of water available for each person is increasingly unequal, and diminishing dramatically.”

This year’s theme, “Shared Water – Shared Opportunities,” aims to explore opportunities to build trust among countries as they manage their common water resources in ways that promote peace, security and sustainable economic growth. Some 900 million people lack access to safe drinking water, making them vulnerable to the water-borne illnesses that kill 4,200 children every day.

Countries from around the world met last week (March 16-22) in Istanbul at the 5th World Water Forum, a gathering that brings together policy-makers, diplomats, water professionals and other partners every three years to examine best practices and challenges in managing freshwater resources. Alonzo Fulgham, the acting US-AID Administrator, and Daniel Reifsnyder, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development, led an interagency delegation of technical experts from the United States.

A new report to the gathering provides an authoritative assessment of the status of these resources, and is the product of collaboration of a broad range of organizations. A companion volume published this year adds the lessons of practical experiences, which are detailed in 20 case studies.

UN organizations working on this issue include UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), FAO (the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization), and UNECE (the UN Economic Commission for Europe).

Additional resources may be found at the UN’s Water Day website.

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