2003 is the International Year of Fresh Water

More than 2 billion people close to 40 percent of the world’s population face water shortages. In the next twenty years, this may well increase to 5.5 billion. Unsustainable practices are persisting and water management remain ineffective. With the result that the world water situation will deteriorate. Water use has increased twice as fast as the world population growth over the last century. About 70 percent of all available fresh water is used for agriculture, but 60 percent is lost because of inefficient irrigation systems.

This has motivated the United Nations to launch the International Year of Fresh Water in 2003, with the hope that this will encourage efforts to give more people access to clean water and protect sources of drinking water. It will host two conferences this year, one in Kyoto, Japan, in March, the other in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in October. It will release its first comprehensive report on the world’s water problems at the former. This report will include recommendations to protect freshwater sources, now increasingly under threat due to degraded water quality, climate change and wetland destruction. At the October meeting it hopes to initiate the fresh water year project. Other meetings also will be held throughout the year. Programs will be launched to raise awareness of the problems and bring governments, the private sector, and non-profit groups together to find ways to ensure water conservation.

Local communities can help achieve these goals with projects to “harvest” more rain water and keep water sources clean using simple techniques such as planting rooftop gardens to cut sewage overflow during rainstorms, Nitin Desai, the U.N. under secretary-general leading the project, told a news conference. For more information go to www.wateryear2003.org