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World Water Day 2010

March 22, 2010

It's World Water Day, and the theme of this year's campaign, "Clean Water for a Healthy World," is designed to raise awareness of the estimated 1 billion people without access to clean water and the 2.5 billion people who have no safe way of disposing of human waste. Those are unimaginably large numbers -- and they represent a staggering burden on the growth potential and future of dozens of countries around the globe.

Indeed, the stakes for hundreds of millions of people couldn't be higher, as the World Bank Institute reminds us:

Water is essential for all dimensions of life. Over the past few decades, use of water has increased, and in many places water availability is falling to crisis levels. More than eighty countries, with forty percent of the world’s population, are already facing water shortages, while by year 2020 the world’s population will double. The costs of water infrastructure have risen dramatically. The quality of water in rivers and underground has deteriorated, due to pollution by waste and contaminants from cities, industry and agriculture. Ecosystems are being destroyed, sometimes permanently. Over one billion people lack safe water, and three billion lack sanitation; eighty per cent of infectious diseases are waterborne, killing millions of children each year....

I can't think of a better illustration of the fragile nature of the planet's fresh-water supplies than this graphic, which I shared with readers back in December:

Watersupply

To learn more about the state of the world's freshwater supplies and what you can do to ensure the sustainability of those supplies -- for everyone, now and into the future -- check out these resources:

Have a favorite water resource? Use the comments section to share...

-- Mitch Nauffts

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I grew up in New Jersey, so it didn't really hit me how many people go without clean water until my recent trip to Honduras. Much of the water supply there is polluted (when you're thirsty, you can't just grab a glass and fill it with water from the kitchen faucet) and the quantity of water each household gets is limited (the water distribution shuts off most evenings).

For anyone interested in learning how they can take action, here's a list I found of 100 ways to conserve.

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