World Water Day

March 18, 2015

Indispensable, yet often undervalued – water is the source of all life on our planet.

Each year, the United Nations (UN) celebrates International World Water Day on March 22nd, focusing global attention to the importance of freshwater and advocating for sustainable management of precious freshwater resources. Each year, the UN designates a theme for World Water Day. For 2015, that theme is Sustainable Development.

If 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water, how could there ever be such a thing as a water crisis? The simple answer: most of the water on our planet is salty and therefore, inaccessible for direct human uses.


Of all the water on earth, only 3 percent is fresh water. Of all the fresh water on the planet, 69 percent is frozen in glaciers and the icecaps, 30 percent is underground, and less than 1 percent exists as rivers, lakes, and streams. Less than 1 percent of all water on our planet is usable to quench our growing population’s thirst for drinking water, irrigation, and industry.

Humans require clean, fresh water for their bodies to function. Societies require clean, fresh water to build their cities, manufacture their products, power their industries and sustain the animals that then feed us. Our growing civilizations are hungry for freshwater.

As global human populations continue to expand and develop, the management of freshwater resources remains a critical and pressing concern. The UN estimates that currently 750 million people lack access to fresh water – equivalent to roughly 1 out of 9 people on the planet. By 2050, the UN expects more than half of the world’s population will lack sufficient water to cover their basic needs.

© Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

But the global freshwater crisis is not an issue of the future; it is an everyday reality for millions.

On March 17th, the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu was devastated by the giant cyclone Pam, suffering by far from the most destructive cyclone the island nation has ever faced. The situation was catastrophic as homes were demolished, food and freshwater resources were contaminated, and lives were lost. As residents of Vanuatu continue to search for their families and homes, and as they slowly begin to rebuild their lives, the most pressing concern they now face: clean, freshwater to drink.

Water is both imperative to survival and a powerful force to be reckoned with. This dramatic catastrophe in Vanuatu reminds us once again the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable countries, including the South Pacific.

Cyclone Pam_0.jpg

As the UN shines the spotlight on Sustainable Development for freshwater resources, I urge us all to remember the ten million people of the Pacific Island nations as well, whose lives will continue to face immense obstacles in the midst of rising sea levels and increasing storm surges that threaten their freshwater security and their lives.

It is first of all urgent and essential to help the victims and help Vanuatu rebuild. I also urge us all to focus our attention on innovative solutions being developed that provide aid and assistance to populations living in remote regions. There are now incredible new technologies that can bring cost-effective water treatments that provide clean, freshwater to disaster stricken regions, or bring generators that deliver self-sustaining solar energy to regions in need. The solutions are in front of us; it’s time to put the spotlight on these pioneering projects.

An opportunity to raise our voices will come in December 2015, when Paris will host the 21st UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Leaders from nations around the world will meet to discuss the state of the planet and decide what global action must be taken to move us in the right direction. We must accelerate international negotiations, reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, and work together to responsibly manage our natural resources, including our most valuable resource: freshwater.

In honor of World Water Day, we are offering discounted autographed copies of Water Culture, a stunning book of powerful images and thoughts on the beauty and importance of water and what the world faces without global water management.

Learn more about our water world, become an advocate for sustainable freshwater management, and support the work of Ocean Futures Society by purchasing Water Culture.

Warm regards,


Jean-Michel Cousteau
President, Ocean Futures Society
with Jaclyn Mandoske

First Photo: “Hurricane Season 2010″ by Maximilian Reuter, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons license.

Second Photo: A woman does her laundry on a tributary of the Amazon River, the largest river by discharge in the world. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Third Photo: The aftermath of Cyclone Pam. Image courtesy UNICEF Pacific