What is World Water Day and why does it matter?

World Water Day is celebrated on 22nd March right across the world. It aims to focus attention on the importance of clean freshwater for our lives and our livelihoods. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) promotes World Water Day to raise awareness of the need to manage water resources locally, nationally and globally.

Although Ireland is a water-rich country, in that we get lots of rainfall, we rely heavily on a steady supply of clean water as is evidenced by the recent rationing of water in and around Dublin during storm Emma. Globally agricultural production accounts for 70% of water usage and we have a large agricultural sector in Ireland that depends on a reliable source of clean water. We are the 5th largest exporter of beef in the world and it takes approximately 15,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef.

Regardless of the amount of water we have at our disposal, the real challenge is to keep it clean. Normal activities we take for granted can impact negatively on water quality including simple things like washing our clothes and cars to flushing our toilets. In Ireland, nearly 50% of our rivers and over 50% of lakes are below the good quality standard required by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).

In recent years we have experienced fierce and frequent storms that many associate with climate change. These severe weather events have caused widespread flooding and devastation to our countryside and urban areas impacting massively on people’s lives and livelihoods. The impact on farms and livestock has been particularly severe resulting in lack of fodder and reduced farm incomes.

The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ and explores nature-based solutions (NBS) to the water challenges of the 21st century. There are many NBS being successfully applied in Ireland, for example planting of trees and native woodlands to soak up flood waters, and creating buffer zones of vegetation along water courses to intercept surface water run-off from agriculture and forestry activities. In Ireland and globally in the past 200 years, we have lost 70% of natural wetlands and peatlands. The protection of these areas and the regeneration of wetlands into the future is hugely important as these areas store water to help reduce flood risk and improve water quality through silt retention and pollutant trapping. Reconnecting rivers to floodplains and allowing space for the river to spill over will be an important natural measure to help reduce the impact of flooding following severe weather events. For more information on ‘The answer is in nature’ see http://worldwaterday.org

These natural based solutions are also known as ‘green infrastructure’ and these can offer other potential benefits for the environment, wildlife and local communities.

The Waters and Communities Office was set up to support local communities develop ideas and projects that can protect and improve water quality in our streams, rivers and lakes. If you would like to find out more about ‘green infrastructure’ or would like to get involved in protecting your local waterbody you can contact the Waters & Communities Office at 0761 065 262 and www.watersandcommunities.ie
You will find further information on social media with #WorldWaterDay2018.

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