Water connects to everything
Interview with Daniella Bostrom Couffe, Communications Manager UN-Water
Since 1990, UN-Water's goal has been to coordinate all water and sanitation programs throughout the United Nations to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation worldwide.
To date, thanks to UN-Water, 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done: Even today, 30% of the world's population does not have safe drinking water and 60% have no toilet or one that does not meet the sanitary requirements. One of the reasons for these major challenges is that water has not been high on the global agenda. That is why UN-Water celebrates World Water Day every year on March 22nd. This year everything revolves around the topic "Water for Nature".
What is the main goal of UN-Water?
UN-Water coordinates the work of all water and sanitation programs throughout the United Nations. The ultimate goal is to ensure global access to clean water and sanitation for all people and the sustainable stewardship of our water.
What are UN-Water's key achievements to date?
Since 1990, 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water. The countries had to make enormous efforts to be able to guarantee this. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to do. Even today, 30% of the world's population does not have safe drinking water and 60% have no toilet or one that does not meet the sanitary requirements. Another major challenge is the global sustainable water supply: How do we ensure that this works with a growing population and a 70% share of global water consumption for agriculture? One of the reasons for these major challenges is that water has not been high on the global agenda. That is why UN-Water recently ensured that the sustainable management of water and sanitation has top priority as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda is an action plan for all UN member countries to make the world a fairer and more sustainable place.
What was the rationale behind World Water Day?
The main idea of World Water Day is to educate people about water issues. Only in this way can measures for the changes be taken. Over the years, however, the day has also developed into an international celebration, with numerous events taking place in many countries around the world.
What is planned for World Water Day 2018 and beyond?
World Water Day focuses on a different topic every year. This allows people to engage deeply with a specific topic. This year everything revolves around the theme of nature. Did you know, for example, that we can already solve many current water problems with examples from nature? We have a number of events planned for this, including the World Water Forum in Brazil and the UN headquarters in New York, where we will be showing a photo exhibition. Next year we will focus on water and sanitation as a human right for refugees and in 2020 we will talk about water in relation to climate change.
Do you think people are really aware of problems like scarcity or drought? Is this talked about enough?
I think it depends who you ask. Anyone from a country experiencing drought, such as Africa or the Middle East, will be well aware of the problems. Someone from northern Europe, on the other hand, from a country with lots of water, will probably think less about it. I think many people have not yet developed an understanding that water connects everything. Let me give you an example: if households have access to water, this automatically means that children can go to school instead of having to walk for hours to get water for the family. It also means that women have to spend less time on the water supply and can use this time to carry out their work. Or if households have toilets, then this not only has an impact on human dignity, but also on health and safety. Because family members do not have to share dirty toilets with the community or even defecate outdoors. Because defecation outdoors is not only a problem because of the bacteria from human waste, but also means a serious risk potential for women: many women without access to safe toilets often wait until it gets dark to then defecate together in groups pay – you have to do this in turn to protect yourself from sexual assault.
Water is your daily business, what does water mean to you personally?
Water is very important to me because I have been dealing with this topic for quite some time. I try to teach my children how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have access to water and toilets and where there is enough water to grow our food. And I try to educate them about the inequalities that water creates. For example for girls and women, refugees, indigenous people or people with disabilities.
What water fact worries you the most?
Difficult question. We have just completed a year-round campaign on wastewater. The fact that worries me the most is that 80% of our wastewater ends up in the environment untreated. This causes environmental pollution, the consequences and extent of which we cannot yet estimate.
What do you personally do to save water?
You can always do more. But I try to do small things every day: I turn off the faucet when brushing my teeth, shower more often than bathe, and rarely drink bottled water. This spring I have a family project planned: we will install a water pump that will allow us to water our plants with rainwater instead of tap water. My kids will love it.
What do you think of campaigns like #WATERLOVER?
I think that all campaigns that promote a sustainable supply of clean water and sanitation are important.
Would you call yourself a #WATERLOVER?
Yes. We should love and protect our water.
What headline about water would you like to read in the future?
WATER AND SANITATION FOR EVERYONE!