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World Water Day

We look at how precious water really is today.

Water plays a vital part in our lives. It is the very thing that sustains us all. In this part of the world, we have the luxury to turn on our taps and fill our glasses, do our dishes and wash our bodies with clean water. For us this is such a common occurrence that we don’t often remember this is not the case worldwide. World Water Day is a day when we are encouraged to be aware of global water-related issues and think of ways to make water a bit clearer everywhere.

More than 650 million people in the world don’t have access to safe water. This doesn’t just affect their personal lives, but also their work lives. Half of all jobs worldwide are water-related in some way. Polluted water makes it hard for people to do their jobs properly. The theme of this year’s World Water Day is Water and Jobs for just that reason.

We use a lot of water on a day-to-day basis and this can actually be a huge source of water pollution. Sewages and wastewater usually have a lot of chemicals in them that are harmful to the environment. Marine dumping is also a significant problem, especially when it comes to certain materials that aren’t easily degradable. Plastic, for instance, takes about 400 years to degrade, so when it is dumped in the sea it will float around for quite some time. There are multiple plastic islands in the ocean where tiny plastic pieces have come together due to certain ocean currents. The plastic that has started to degrade turns into so-called micro plastic, which makes these islands a kind of plastic soup. All of this is obviously very harmful for the animals living in the sea that get stuck in plastic items and eat the micro plastic and tiny objects. It is also harmful for humans, since we eat the fish that eat this plastic.

The fashion industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to water pollution. The production process of clothing involves a lot of water and chemical usage. It takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt. That is about the same amount of clean water we drink in three years. A great deal of this water is used to grow the ever-thirsty cotton plant. The rest is used during the dyeing process and when the raw materials get turned into textiles. During these steps in the production process, textile dyes and synthetic chemicals pollute the water, and the production of clothes is just a part of fashion’s negative contribution.

A lot of the pollution happens right in your home. 47% of the environmental impact of a piece of clothing comes from the aftercare, such as washing, drying and ironing. It takes about 151 litres of water to wash a single load of laundry, so you can do the math on how much water it actually takes to keep just one of your t-shirts clean.

Even though it can seem like our water supply is never-ending, every time we open the tap this is unfortunately not the case. Approximately 97% of the world’s water supply is saltwater and therefore undrinkable. Only a small percentage is fit for us to consume. At this moment we are handling that little bit of precious water in a seriously wasteful way. World Water Day gives us a nice opportunity to think about how we can take better care of it. Everything starts with us. We could wash our clothes less and at lower temperatures, air-dry our clothes, use organic cleaning products for our laundry, buy sustainably made products, and buy less plastic, just to name a few examples.

There are several ambassadors who vouch for greater collective consciousness when it comes to what we know about water usage. Beyoncé, Lady GaGa and Pharell Williams for instance have all given their support to the World Water Day initiative. Let’s all take step towards making this a bluer planet together.