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Editor’s Note: This infographic illustrates the interlinkages between water and energy -- the theme of this year’s World Water Day -- and highlights the effects of the increasing demand for both on the global supply of finite freshwater resources. It was created for the World Bank’s Thirsty Energy initiative and originally appeared here. To learn more about the upcoming World Water Day (this Saturday, March 22) and to view a listing of worldwide events, visit UN Water's official web site for the celebration.

Thirsty Energy
World Water Day 2013

“Water cooperation is key to socioeconomic development, poverty eradication, social equity, gender equality and environmental sustainability.” – UN-Water

In celebration of World Water Day on March 22, we have rounded up seven events taking place across the country and online. Details and registration information are below.

Friday, March 22nd

New York (10AM – 5PM EDT)

UN High Level Interactive Dialogue
This event will mark the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation and the 20th anniversary of World Water Day. The goal of the dialogue will be to identify water-related issues that will require stronger political support and cooperation from the international community. Potential strategies to overcome these issues will be explored, along with the role that various stakeholders can play. Lessons learned from the last 20 years since the conception of WWD will be shared. 

Twitter (12PM – 1:30PM EDT)

#AskAg Twitter Chat: Water and Food Security Nexus
USAID will host a Twitter chat with implementing partners on the water-food security nexus with a focus on irrigation and water management for agriculture. The conversation will feature experts from USAID, IDE, Water For People, WASH Advocates, and JW Strategic Consulting. To participate, use the hashtag #AskAg.

Google+ (1:30PM EDT)

World Water Day Google+ Hangout Celebration
Google for Nonprofits, in partnership with Google+, will host a Google+ hangout to discuss the water crisis and actions that need to be taken to solve it. The conversation will include representatives from WaterAid, charity: water, Water.org, Water For People, and will be moderated by YouTube star Justine Ezarik. Viewers are encouraged to contribute to the conversation via Twitter using the hashtag #WorldWaterDay2013.

Washington, D.C. (1:30PM – 3:30PM EDT)

U.S. Water Partnership Multiple Use Services Workshop
The U.S. Department of State will host a Water Partnership Multiple Use Services (MUS) workshop to encourage the use of the MUS model and explore scaling MUS adoption with implementers, policymakers, and donors. Click here to RSVP.

Las Vegas

ONE NIGHT for ONE DROP
ONE DROP, the nonprofit established by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, will present an original production specially created for a one-night-only performance and dedicated to raise awareness and funds for ONE DROP. The event will be filmed and a 90-minute special will be available for online viewing from March 25-31.

Saturday, March 23rd

Los Angeles (8AM PDT)

World Water Day Awareness Raising
Radio Disney, in partnership with Tetra Tech and Drop in the Bucket, will host the 2013 El Segundo Run for Education, a 5K walk/run to raise awareness about the water crisis.

Chicago (1:30PM – 4PM CDT)

Water: The Global Passport
Surge for Water’s second annual youth summit will convene students between the ages of 13 and 17, along with their adult mentors, for an afternoon workshop to educate participants on the challenges that people from Haiti, Cambodia, and India endure in order to access water. In addition, participants will learn about local water sources, water treatment, and water conservation. 

How will you be celebrating World Water Day? Leave us a comment below or send a tweet to @WASHfunders.

Editor’s Note: In this post, Susan Davis reflects on the theme of World Water Day water and food security and the implications it has for all of us. Susan is the executive director of Improve International, an organization focused on promoting and facilitating independent evaluations of WASH programs to help the sector improve. She has more than 13 years of experience in international development and has evaluated WASH and other programs in 15 developing countries. A version of this post originally appeared here.

Water for People and Animals; La Guajira, Colombia

Credit: Aguayuda / Sabrina Zimmerman

I was in DC last week for World Water Day celebrations, which focused on this year’s theme Water & Food Security. (The UN celebrated the first World Water Day on March 22 1993, and each year selects a theme highlighting an aspect of freshwater. Read about past themes here.) I took advantage of the beautiful weather to see the early blooming cherry blossoms and visit the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. One of MLK’s quotes from 1964 caught my eye: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

“Food security exists when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for an active and healthy life” (1996 World Food Summit). Sadly, 48 years after MLK’s Norway speech, Water and Food Security is still a relevant theme as world headlines continue to warn of drought, malnutrition, famine, and exponentially increasing populations. While one day a year might not seem like enough to make a difference in such enormous problems, World Water Day has become a prompt for governments, foundations, charitable organizations, and individuals to come together at a variety of events around the world to raise awareness, discuss solutions, and make serious commitments.

Many of us drink a glass or two of water with each of our three meals. But how many of us think about the intimate relationship between water and food?

We need a great deal of water to grow and process our food, whether it’s plant or animal. Without water we can’t grow most food sources; and without safe water we can lose many of the vital nutrients from that food. This connection is driving concerns about the world’s food supply, particularly with increasing water scarcity and changing weather patterns, but is especially critical and pressing for people in developing countries. According to the Food Security Information for Action Practical Guides, investment in water is a key part of the strategy for addressing food security problems.

While the water-food connection sounds simple, there are many complicating issues. To understand how to help, we must explore what this means on the individual, community, and global levels.

At the individual level

Nutrition is a delicate issue for many in the developing world, especially children under five. Mothers need these children to hold onto every last calorie. Yet drinking unsafe water can lead to diarrhea, which leads to malnutrition, which can lead to diarrhea, completing the vicious cycle. Eating food contaminated by unwashed hands can also contribute, ironically, to malnutrition. A study by Luby, et al. found that children living in households where food preparers washed their hands with just water before handling food were less likely to have diarrhea than children living in households where food preparers did not wash their hands at all. This suggests that hand-washing, even without using soap, promotes health. The implication for WASH project planning is that hygiene promotion is absolutely critical, with a focus on incremental changes in behavior over time: washing with water is good, washing with soap is even better.

Women and girls are usually tasked with fetching water for their families. The water is heavy, and they may have to walk up to 6 kilometers per day, sometimes in rugged terrains. It’s estimated that, around the world, women and girls spend 200 million hours each day collecting water. Subsistence farmers or others on the edge of food insecurity shouldn’t need to use precious calories just to fetch water. Various studies show the longer it takes to fetch water, the less water people are likely to bring home and consume (see chart). If families have only a very small amount of water, they will often prioritize it for drinking and cooking, not for washing hands or watering gardens. Thus, WASH project planners need to consider the convenience of water points to help stop the cycle of malnutrition.

Chart of Water Collection Amount and Time

Data source: WHO & UNICEF 2005 Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation

At the community level

In my supermarket, I can find fruit and vegetables from many countries, no matter the season. But for people living on less than $2 a day, especially in rural areas, food and water can only be obtained seasonally and locally. This leads to very limited diets, both in quantity and nutritional quality. One of the under-appreciated benefits of a water supply system is that families can use the additional water to maintain small gardens and to hydrate animals. As a result, they gain access to varied food sources, which can improve nutrition and relieve some of the dependence on a single food source. Furthermore, families might be able to supplement their incomes by growing and selling coffee, rice, or meat, which often require water for processing as well. This is why planning for water systems (capacity and distribution) should consider multiple uses of water beyond drinking. (The Multiple Use Water Services Group just published guidelines here.) Using household meters and charging fees based on the amount of water used can both encourage conservation and help identify leaks quickly.

More and more WASH implementing organizations are also thinking about how to help farmers — subsistence and commercial — avoid polluting the water sources they depend on with pesticides. Other efforts are focusing on helping farmers grow more “crop per drop” — for example, iDE’s drip irrigation — or grow drought resistant crops. Watershed protection programs also encourage communities to keep trees and plant new ones to prevent topsoil from going into streams and rivers. To ensure a sufficient and safe source of water over time, WASH project planners should consider including integrated water resource management (IWRM) (like the Global Water Initiative has) or partnering with a group familiar with the practice. According to Steph Ogden (who was the IWRM fellow with Water for People last year), organizations doing IWRM best are small, local organizations based around a watershed (large or small), such as the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization. Steph says, “They’re looking out for water access, environmental sustainability, sanitation, livelihoods of their own neighbors in the watershed region with a real understanding of how they’re all (and all of those components are) connected.” Other resources on the topic include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC), or International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

On the global level

Inexorably, the world’s population is growing. It is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Those people will need to eat food and drink safe water, on the order of 100 percent more globally by 2050. Meat consumption (which uses a great deal of water) is increasing in population-dense countries like China. Besides the 2-4 liters of drinking water per person, it takes 2,000-5,000 liters of water to produce one person’s daily food. “To secure food for everybody, we first need to secure water,” says the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN. The implications for all of us as individuals might be eating less meat.

Almost half a century after MLK envisioned food security, The Stockholm Statement calls on leadership at all levels of government that will participate at the Rio+20 Summit to commit to achieving “universal provisioning of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and modern energy services by the year 2030″ and to adopt intervening targets to increase efficiency in the management of water, energy, and food. Audacious? You bet! And since we all eat, drink, and use energy, each one of us has a part to play.

For more information and educational materials, see the UN World Water Day site.

World Water Day Events in NY and DC

World Water Day on March 22nd is right around the corner and will be marked by several events in New York and Washington D.C. See details and registration information below.

Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 21st (8AM – 5PM)

Get Schooled on WASH is a day-long series of learning sessions, ranging from WASH 101 panels for those new to the field to more advanced sessions focusing on sustainability, financing, and partnerships. Each session builds on the one before, but can also be attended as a standalone. Detailed information about each session and registration information can be found here.

Location: World Bank (19th and H Streets, NW)

Thursday, March 22nd (5PM – 7PM)

A Drink to the World: Celebrating Success in Water and Sanitation is an evening celebration in honor of the achievements in the WASH sector. Political and cultural leaders will share personal stories about their work. Speakers will include:

  • Greg Allgood, Director of Children’s Safe Water Drinking Program, Proctor & Gamble
  • Simon Laari, Catholic Relief Service Ghana
  • Peter Lochery, Water Team Director, CARE
  • Treana Peake, Fashion Designer, Obakki Foundation

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Location: Russell Senate Office Building at the Kennedy Caucus Room (Constitution Ave and 1st St, NE)

New York

Friday, March 23rd (9AM – 4:30PM)

Water: The Global Challenge of Our Future is a day-long series of panels featuring academics, members of the private sector, government, the United Nations, and civil society devoted to examining the implications of the WASH crisis in a global context. Keynote speakers will include Forest Whitaker and Alexandra Cousteau.

The event is sponsored by The Melody for Dialogue Among Civilizations Association, in conjunction with NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. For more event and registration information, click here.

Location: New York University’s Center for Global Affairs (15 Barclay Street, 4th Floor)

Planning to attend these or other events on World Water Day? Tweet us about it! Our handle is @WASHfunders and we’d love to hear how you plan to spend World Water Day.

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