What is World Water Day?

Photo: Duda Arraes via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-NDPhoto: Duda Arraes via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-NDWorld Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030, making water a key issue in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22 as World Water Day. World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.


Why wastewater?

Globally, the vast majority of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or reused – polluting the environment, and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.

Photo credit: Asian Development Bank via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-NDPhoto credit: Asian Development Bank via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-NDInstead of wasting wastewater, we need to reduce and reuse it. In our homes, we can reuse greywater on our gardens and plots. In our cities, we can treat and reuse wastewater for green spaces. In industry and agriculture, we can treat and recycle discharge for things like cooling systems and irrigation.

By exploiting this valuable resource, we will make the water cycle work better for every living thing. And we will help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6 target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse.

Why a World Water Day?

w1World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then. Each year, UN-Water  the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate.

w2“Water and Jobs” is the theme of 2016 and highlights how both water and jobs have the power to transform people’s lives: Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy and decent work can provide income and pave the way for broader social and economic advancements. Today, almost half of the world’s workers - 1.5 billion people - work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water. Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. Water has the ability to create paid and decent jobs and can contribute to a greener economy and sustainable development. But for this to happen, we need more qualified workers to do their job in dignity, equality, safety and with a fair income.

Better water, better jobs

Today, almost half of the world’s workers - 1.5 billion people - work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. The theme in 2016 — water and jobs — is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods - and even transform societies and economies.

World Water Day 2015

ww day fishing

A day to celebrate, a day to change, a day to prepare. 
World Water Day is marked on 22 March every year. It’s a day to celebrate water. It’s a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It’s a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future.  

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March as the first World Water Day. 22 years later, World Water Day is celebrated around the world shining the spotlight on a different issue every year. This issue is also the theme of the annual UN World Water Development Report which is launched on World Water Day.

In 2015, the theme for World Water Day is 'Water and Sustainable Development'. It’s about how water links to all areas we need to consider to create the future we want.

Each year, UN-Water provides resources to inspire celebrations for World Water Day.

World Water Day 2014 logo      water & energy 22.03.2014 

Facts and figures

The Facts and Figures in this section are drawn from the upcoming edition of the World Water Development Report on Water and Energy that will be published in March 2014 and launched on the occasion of World Water Day celebrations in Tokyo, Japan.



Hydroelectricity is currently the largest renewable source for power generation in the world. Hydropower’s share in total electricity generation is expected to remain around 16% through 2035.

 World Water Day 2013 


Water is vital for life, pivotal for human development and necessary to keep our environment healthy. There is a fixed amount of water on the planet and with increasing population, economic development and changing lifestyles, undue pressure has been put on the world's limited water resources leading to increased competition for water and creating situations of potential conflict.

But water can be used as an instrument of peace and development as every action involving water management requires effective cooperation between multiple actors whether at the local or international scale.

2012 world water

Water and Food Security

Water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered. Essentially, demographic growth and economic development are putting unprecedented pressure on renewable, but finite water resources, especially in arid regions.

By 2025, 1800 million people are expected to be living in countries or regions with “absolute” water scarcity (<500 m3 per year per capita), and two-thirds of the world population could be under “stress” conditions (between 500 and 1000 m3 per year per capita). The situation will be exacerbated as rapidly growing urban areas place heavy pressure on neighbouring water resources. Moreover, environmental services and ecosystem functions cannot be treated any longer as the residuals of all water users. In the future, climate change and bio-energy demands are expected to amplify the already complex relationship between world development and water demand.

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