This year’s World Water Day, March 22, 2013, is titled International Year of Water Cooperation. Water cooperation, as defined by UN Water:
The fulfillment of basic human needs, our environment, socio-economic development and poverty reduction are all heavily dependent on water.
Good management of water is especially challenging due to some of its unique characteristics: it is unevenly distributed in time and space, the hydrological cycle is highly complex and perturbations have multiple effects. Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten the resource while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population, now at over seven billion people, for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Water is a shared resource and its management needs to take into account a wide variety of conflicting interests. This provides opportunities for cooperation among users.
In designating 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation, the [United Nations General Assembly] recognizes that cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share this precious resource equitably, using water as an instrument of peace. Promoting water cooperation implies an interdisciplinary approach bringing in cultural, educational and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal, institutional and economic dimensions.
Updated facts on global water and sanitation conditions as provided by UN Water:
- 780 million people do not have access to clean water
- Around 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation
- 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases
- there are 276 transboundary river basins in the world (64 transboundary river basins in Africa, 60 in Asia, 68 in Europe, 46 in North America, and 38 in South America)
- almost 450 agreements on international waters were signed between 1820 and 2007