UN Secretary-General issues warning for World Water Day

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a warning yesterday on the occasion of World Water Day held annually 22 March, noting the strain on global water resources due to overuse, pollution, droughts and heatwaves.

World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

This 2022, the focus is groundwater, an invisible resource with an impact visible everywhere.

Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which are geological formations of rocks, sands and gravels that hold substantial quantities of water. Groundwater feeds springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands, and seeps into oceans. Groundwater is recharged mainly from rain and snowfall infiltrating the ground. Groundwater can be extracted to the surface by pumps and wells.

Life would not be possible without groundwater. Most arid areas of the world depend entirely on groundwater. Groundwater supplies a large proportion of the water we use for drinking, sanitation, food production and industrial processes.

It is also critically important to the healthy functioning of ecosystems, such as wetlands and rivers.

We must protect them from overexploitation – abstracting more water than is recharged by rain and snow - and the pollution that currently haunts them, since it can lead to the depletion of this resource, extra-costs of processing it, and sometimes even preventing its use.

Exploring, protecting and sustainably using groundwater will be central to surviving and adapting to climate change and meeting the needs of a growing population.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres Statement:

"Humanity’s demand for water is growing. Pressure on water resources is increasing due to overuse, pollution and climate change. Droughts and heatwaves are becoming more intense and more frequent. Sea-level rise is driving salt-water intrusion into coastal aquifers. Groundwater aquifers are being depleted.

Water can be a source of conflict but also of cooperation. It is essential that we work together to provide better stewardship of all water sources, including the world’s supply of groundwater. Groundwater is out of sight, but we cannot afford for it to be out of mind. Stored in rocks and soil, groundwater is our biggest source of liquid freshwater. It sustains drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming, industry and ecosystems. Yet, some 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers are being overexploited.

In many places, we simply do not know how much of this precious resource might exist. We need to improve our exploration, monitoring and analysis of groundwater resources to protect and better manage them and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Next year’s United Nations Water Conference provides a decisive opportunity to galvanize action on water for sustainable development. On this World Water Day, let us commit to intensifying collaboration among sectors and across borders so we can sustainably balance the needs of people and nature and harness groundwater for current and future generations."


World Water Day is an annual United Nations (UN) observance day held on 22 March that highlights the importance of fresh water. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  The theme of each day focuses on topics relevant to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), which is in line with the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6. The UN World Water Development Report (WWDR) is released each year around World Water Day.

UN-Water is the convener for World Water Day and selects the theme for each year in consultation with UN organizations that share an interest in that year's focus. The theme for 2021 was "Valuing Water" and the public campaign invited people to join a global conversation on social media to "tell us your stories, thoughts and feelings about water".

In 2020, the theme was "Water and Climate Change". Previous themes for the years 2016 to 2019 were "Water and Jobs'",  "Why waste water?" "Nature for Water", and "Leaving no one behind". World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature. The day can also include campaigns to raise money for water projects. The first World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, was in 1993.