World Water Day
Water is arguably the most important resource on our planet, as every living thing needs it to survive. Without water, there would be zero vegetation on land, no oxygen for humans and animals to survive, and the planet would look entirely different from the one we live in today. Our planet and all its inhabitants rely on water, and it should be valued and protected as the precious resource that it is.
Intending to recognise the importance of water across the globe, the United Nations General Assembly (UN) established World Water Day in 1992, and it is now held annually on 22 March. The day celebrates water and raises awareness of the billions of people who currently have no access to clean water. A key aim of World Water Day is also to support one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Each year, World Water Day focuses on a key theme, this year turning their attention to the importance of groundwater.
What is Groundwater?
Groundwater is water found within the cracks and spaces underground. There is a vast amount of water underneath the surface of the earth that can be found below hills, mountains, plains and deserts. It would be easy to assume that majority of the earth’s fresh water is sourced from our lakes and rivers, however that is not the case. Surprisingly, approximately 1% of our planet’s fresh water is provided through lakes and rivers, and if you discount the 70% located within snow and glaciers, the majority of fresh water is pulled from the ground. The main source of groundwater is rainfall and snow, which are then absorbed into the ground and later extricated through pumps and wells.
Why is Groundwater so Important?
Groundwater plays a vital role in sustaining our global communities as the main source of water that is used for drinking and sanitation as well as agriculture and industry. Although groundwater is hidden beneath the surface of the earth, its impact is visible almost everywhere, with many believing it’s our greatest hidden resource. Groundwater is vital in maintaining the earth’s wetlands and rivers, as it helps them continue to flow, even without regular rainfall. As groundwater is stored in layers below the surface, its quality is often safeguarded from contamination.
What issues are we now faced with?
Previous generations have seen groundwater as an infinite resource; however, our precious supply is now under threat. We have been guilty of extracting more groundwater than what is replaced, which can often lead to intrusion of our land and oceans. Industry and agriculture activity has also harmed groundwater as various chemicals applied to the ground have resulted in the contamination of the water supply. Additionally, as climate change progressively worsens, groundwater will be one of the many victims badly affected. As winters become increasingly wet, many areas will become more at risk of flooding, and as summers become increasingly hot, groundwater resources will begin to dry up.
How can we protect Groundwater?
There are two main areas to consider when thinking about protecting groundwater:
- Reducing Contamination
Once polluted, it is very hard to extract harmful chemicals from the water supply. Therefore, it is important for both businesses and individuals to handle chemicals with care and aim to reduce waste through proper disposal methods. Governments should look to introduce firmer legislation on waste disposal in an attempt to combat unlawful waste. The UK government is this year looking to crackdown on waste, with the implementation of digital waste tracking being discussed.
- Using the resource more wisely
Many global towns and communities solely rely on groundwater to operate efficiently and meet domestic needs. As we continue the worldwide battle against climate change, it will become even more crucial to maintain both the standard and quantity of this resource. We must anticipate the impacts on the future supply of groundwater through changes to infrastructure and modification of landscapes, which will help maintain, and hopefully enhance, the regeneration of groundwater.
For more information on World Water Day and groundwater visit https://www.worldwaterday.org/.