The official date for World Water Day is March 22, but raising awareness for water conservation and water safety is a year-round, daily mission. So, in honor of World Water Day this year, we’d like to draw a little more attention to the women all over the globe right now who walk and work hard every day for their water.
For many cultures, young girls and women are responsible for bearing water. Yet this chore is becoming even more challenging in certain parts of the world. From Mexico City to Cape Town, water scarcity is on the rise. Understanding these water challenges can help ensure that our water resources are protected and safe for generations to come.
Women: The World’s Water Bearers
Everyone needs clean water. But on the list of people most affected by the water crisis, women are at the top. As the primary water bearers, they are often responsible for walking several hours every day just to obtain the water their families need. It’s easy to forget that water isn’t just for drinking. We use water for all types of daily activities, from cooking meals to taking care of personal hygiene, waste disposal, and growing our food.
Having a reliable water supply helps keep our households clean, but for many families, running tap water isn’t an option. Women must then put their time and energy into collecting the water themselves. This means they have less time for school, work, and other family needs. All of which can lead to a harsh cycle of poverty.
It’s already widely acknowledged that women play a valuable role in water management. Yet including their expertise into new policies has proven difficult. As conditions stand right now, 1 in 9 people don’t have access to safe water. Some organizations, like The Water Project, are working to remove these barriers. They help to provide schools and villages with access to clean water, and that greatly improves certain situations. But if we can’t protect our water supplies for the long-run, water scarcity will only continue to spread.
Water Scarcity in Our Major World Cities
The term water scarcity relates to either the lack of clean water, or the lack of water in general. There might be water present that isn’t safe, or water might be much harder to locate. Both types of issues are on the rise, and it often seems that the conditions will only worsen before we can put measures in place to stall and solve the problems.
In Mexico City, water scarcity has unfortunately become the new “norm.” One of its most popular districts has already been making headlines in recent weeks. Nearly 2 million people live in Iztapalapa, and currently no water is running through the taps. The government has been drilling deep wells, but that makes the city itself sink deeper and deeper. The streets and buildings are literally dropping as the groundwater is extraction. It’s not sustainable, yet there aren’t many options.
As a result, some of the women in Iztapalapa are taking matters into their own hands. They monitor water requests from neighbors and coordinate with the local authorities to direct the area’s water distribution. But it’s a tedious process. When the water trucks (called “pipas”) do come, it’s later than anyone would hope. The women spend hours waiting for the trucks to arrive, and even then, political corruption still plays a role.
Other parts of Mexico City are more remote and can’t be reached by these trucks. The women in those areas then have to take even longer trips for their water. Soon, we might see similar struggles spreading to Cape Town. That major city is expected to completely run out of water in late May or early June 2018. The region has long relied on rainwater, and a three-year drought has nearly pushed it over the edge. So, is there a practical way to keep these problems from spreading?
Take Action with World Water Day
This year’s theme of World Water Day 2018, “Nature for Water,” focuses on the importance of natural solutions to address water crises around the globe. By utilizing more nature-based solutions (NBS) in restoration plans, we can help solve the water challenges that people all over the world face every day.
NBS prioritize sustainable, cost-effective practices such as planting more trees to revitalize forests, restoring wetlands, and reconnecting rivers and floodplains. Such measures can help prevent floods, droughts, and water pollution in all types of climates and regions. Adding riparian buffers can help mitigate flooding risks, and rebuilding natural wetlands can improve water availability. Planting native trees and shrubs along water lines can also protect water quality.
While these NBS aren’t a magic solution to all of the world’s water problems, they are a fantastic place to start. World Water Day is about increasing our appreciation of water, and working to lend support to the parts of the world who struggle with water scarcity. As we strive to better appreciate our access to clean water this month, consider what steps you can take to help out our environment, near and far. What conservation causes do you support? Is there a water project that you’d like to get involved with here in Indiana? We’d love to hear from you!