World Water Day 2019: ‘Leaving no one behind’.

Photo by   Kelvin Trautman

Last Friday, 22 March 2019, we celebrated International World Water Day, which is held annually to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year’s theme is “Leaving no one behind”. In 2010, the UN recognised “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”. Even though water is recognised as a human right and essential for well-being and dignity, even to this day, a staggering 2.1 billion people are still living without safe water at home, with marginalised groups – especially women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, and disabled people – being the most affected. Women and girls, for example, are responsible for domestic water collection in eight out of ten households without a water supply on the premises. The time girls and women spend walking or queuing to collect water, often more than once a day, leaves little or no time for education or income generation. Reducing the time it takes to fetch water from 30 to 15 minutes increased girls’ school attendance by 12 per cent according to a study conducted by UNICEF in Tanzania. By guaranteeing easy and affordable access to safe water to women and girls, we can address goal SDG 6 (ensuring availability and management of clean water and sanitation) of the UN Sustainable Development Goals(1), but also contribute positively to many other goals such as SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being ), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), and SDG 8 (Reduced Inequalities).

To address and act on SDG 6 it is essential to understand the importance of water conservation. Water is a precious resource and although people in some parts of the world do not realise it, it is a finite and scarce resource. In fact, 70 per cent of the world's surface is covered by water but 97.5 per cent of that is salt water. Of the 2.5 per cent that is freshwater, the majority is frozen in ice caps and glaciers and, as a consequence, only less than 1 per cent of all the available water on earth, is available for consumption by plants, humans and animals. The demand for water is expected to increase by 55 per cent between 2000 and 2050, and with ever-increasing manufacturing, electricity and domestic use, a ‘business as usual’ approach to water supplies will see almost half the world’s population living under severe water stress by 2030 (OECD, 2012). According to the United Nations as many as 5.7 billion people could be living in areas without easy access to one of life's most essential resources by the year 2050. By understanding that water is a scarce and precious resource and by learning where water is heavily used and/or wasted, we can start and change our relationship with it and take action at an individual level to reduce water usage. 

Here are a few additional facts that are shocking:

  • Over 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. (UN, 2018)

  • Nearly half the global population is already living in potential water-scarce areas at least one month per year and this could increase to some 4.8–5.7 billion in 2050. About 73 per cent of the affected people live in Asia (69 per cent by 2050) (Burek et al., 2016).

  • 100 million families are stuck in a cycle of poverty and disease because they don’t have access to safe water. (

  • Every 60 seconds a child under the age of five dies from illnesses related to dirty water. (

  • 55 per cent of China’s rivers have disappeared over the last 20 years due to industrial use (Thirst)

And if we look at our water consumption:

  • What we eat – our diet – makes up at least two-thirds of our total water footprint. This is primarily due to the large volume of “virtual water” needed to grow and produce food.

  • The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity and a vegetarian diet could shrink our food-related water footprint  by 36 per cent.

  • A 100 g bar of chocolate is made up of 1700 litres of water (

  • Agriculture accounts for, on average, 70 per cent of all water withdrawals globally and competition for water resources is expected to increase in the future, with particular pressure on agriculture (World Bank).

  • It can take 2,700 litres to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt, the equivalent of what a person drinks in 2 years.

  • A pair of Levi’s 501 jeans uses 3,781 litres of water in its full lifecycle – from growing cotton, through manufacturing, consumer care at home and end of life disposal. 

  • Taking a bath consumes between 75 and 90 litres of water (Anglian Water)

Note: Other incredible information about water and infographics can be found on at

The facts set out above clearly show the water hidden inside the things we wear, eat, use and consume every day. Sadly, there is a crucial lack of awareness of the importance of conserving water and the necessity of changing the way we all use, consume and think about water. For this reason, Mina Guli established the #RunningDry Campaign. If you have never heard about Mina, you will certainly never forget her name once you read her story and learn of her recent achievements. Mina is a water advocate and ultra runner. As the CEO of Thirst, an international non-profit initiative that encourages young people to use water more sustainably, she embarked on a quest to run 100 marathons in 100 days at the end of last year. Her reasons for her doing it? In her own words: “I want to inspire people to commit to water saving and become part of a global movement of water-conscious citizens. We need to make saving water so famous, it's not just the right thing to do, it's the only thing to do.” This endeavour was not the first one - Mina previous projects were the 7 Desert Run and the 6 River Run - but certainly the most ambitious. From New York, she planned to run across Europe, China, Australia, India, the Middle East, Africa and South America before returning to the United States. Sadly, after 62 marathons in 62 days, Mina broke her right femur and was forced to discontinue. It was a tough moment for her and she felt she had let down "all the people whose stories I wanted to tell.". The reaction to the news of her injury was incredible and proved how successful Mina had been in raising awareness about the water crisis and in creating a community that supported her mission. People who she didn't know offered to donate distance to the campaign and the #RunningDry community started to contribute kilometres every day from around the world. The water message kept spreading and the #RunningDry movement became stronger. In all, 748 marathons were run in her name, far surpassing the remaining 38 Mina needed to complete her goal. For World Water Day she brought the #RunningDry community together again and over 2000 km were logged for water. Mina’s story shows the power of true authentic leadership. She is now the dedicated leader of a global community of passionate water-wise citizens ready to change the world. We are sure that more is to come, so follow her on Instagram at , Twitter at or Facebook at

For more information about Mina and her projects:


For further reading on World Water Day and the importance of water conservation: and

To watch videos explaining why we need to care about water:

 For tips on how to conserve water:,

For maps monitoring world's freshwater supply:!20!28!c&t=waterrisk&w=def&g=0&i=BWS-16!WSV-4!SV-2!HFO-4!DRO-4!STOR-8!GW-8!WRI-4!ECOS-2!MC-4!WCG-8!ECOV-2!&tr=ind-1!prj-1&l=3&b=terrain&m=group and

(1) The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.

and further reading at;