International Year of Freshwater

We are all dependent on water. No matter who we are, where we are, and what we do, we all need water every day. The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2003 the International Year of Freshwater.

We need water to stay healthy, we need water for growing food, for irrigation, for transport and for industry. We need water for animals and plants, for the changing colours and the seasons. However, despite the importance of water resources in our lives and for our well-being, we are increasingly disrespectful of them. We abuse them. We waste water. We pollute our water. We forget how essential freshwater is for our very survival.

According to the United Nations, the six billion inhabitants of the world already appropriate 54 per cent of all the accessible freshwater contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. By the year 2025, if current trends persist, humanity will be appropriating 70 per cent of freshwater resources. This would mean that two-thirds of the world’s population will be living with serious water shortages or almost no water at all.

Water that has been contaminated by human, animal or chemical wastes is causing an alarmingly rapid increase in the incidence of water-borne diseases. Every single day 6,000 deaths occur due to diarrhoeal disease which is caused by dirty water. Around 60 per cent of all infant mortality worldwide is linked to infectious and parasitic diseases, most of them water-related.

The year 2003 will be used as a platform for promoting existing activities and spearheading new initiatives in water resources at the international, regional and national levels. The International Year of Freshwater is expected to follow up on agreements reached at the World Summit on Sustainable Development and should have an impact far beyond the year 2003.

The publication of the World Water Development Report will be a major focus of the Year’s public information activities.

2003 provides an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of the principles of integrated water management. It is a year of opportunity, a year for action. 2003 is a year to take stock and protect our freshwater and help ensure our future and our planet’s long-term prospects.

Further information
UNESCO Bureau of Public Information, Attn: Peter Coles, 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07, France, fax: +33-1-45685652. This article is taken from the International Year of Freshwater web site at where further details of the year’s events can be found.