by Katherine Marshall
from Huffington Post
March 22 is World Water Day, and today events the world over focus on water’s importance, for life in every form, and for the human spirit.
Few would disagree that WASH — the acronym that links water, sanitation and hygiene — is a critical need. Many actors are working hard to fill the glaring gaps that still exist and to meet the ideal of assuring “clean water for all” and decent sanitation. There’s some good news: the targets for water supply set by all the United Nations at the turn of millennium for the year 2015 have already been met (though 780 million people still lack safe drinking water). That’s something to celebrate and the achievement reflects extraordinary efforts — providing water to 2 billion people since 1990 is no mean feat. But sanitation goals lag far behind and well over 2 billion people lack access to anything approximating decent toilet facilities. We should never forget the daily challenges this lack means for people, and especially women, whose lives are often in danger as they seek quiet and privacy.
It should come as no surprise that many leading advocates and groups working in the world’s most difficult and remote places on water and sanitation draw their inspiration from their religious faith. In virtually every faith tradition, water plays a central role. It cleanses, purifies, sustains, heals and nurtures. It inspires with its beauty and poetry, and it conveys the mystery of life. In interfaith rituals, the shared focus on water is a common bond. WASH is so universal a need that it gives meaning to calls for social justice and equality. Surely few will be unmoved by the gross unfairness of the gap between turning on a faucet, assured that clean water will flow, and imagining the women who walk for miles to carry home a jug of brackish water.
World Water Day has a different theme each year and this year it is food security and agriculture. It’s a reminder that the main cause of hunger and famine is drought and that water is vital for all agriculture. Each of us drinks between two and four quarts of water every day, but in truth it is in the food we eat that most water is consumed. Producing a pound of beef consumes about 4,000 gallons of water while producing two pounds of wheat needs 400 gallons of water.