Antigua & Barbuda today, joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Water Day. The UN-HABITAT and UN Water initiative emanated from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.
The two-week Earth Summit, as its Web site indicates, “was the climax of a process, begun in December 1989, of planning, education and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21, a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide.”
Out of this gathering, almost 20 years ago, the decision was made to set aside a day to recognise water as a basic necessity for myriad functions.
The theme for this year’s observation is Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge. In this regard, there’ll be various “water-centred” activities occurring across the globe.
Among those in India, will be a Walk for Water. In Africa, the Kenya Museum Society has planned a special evening programme entitled World Water Day. In Italy, residents have mounted a virtual photo exhibition themed “Water and my City.”
A World Water Day motorcade will be making its way through the Philippine streets and in the US a Magical Watery Tour and a World Water Day festival will form part of that country’s celebrations.
Here at home, our Medical Benefits Scheme has designated today as the day for water to be the preferred choice of beverage. In fact, the organisation said it will be providing water for customers using their facilities, in addition to distributing two bottles of water to staff.
Although the activities vary from country to country, the objective is the same: to promote awareness of the importance of this crucial element.
Water is the universal solvent. It’s used for myriad things including bathing, orally taking medication, cleaning objects, and maintaining overall health and wellbeing. As a matter of fact, it’s absolutely vital for life. Our bodies are 70 per cent water.
Its prolonged inaccessibility leads to the spread of diseases. It is for this reason that following disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes one of the first relief measures is to provide people with water. Just check the images displayed on television of relief items being distributed in Japan, where the people are hurting from no access to water.
Each year, in Antigua & Barbuda, we experience interruptions in water service provided by the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), for which we pay dearly.
Consumers’ complaints range from discoloured water, to foul-smelling water, to muddy water, to rusty water, to no water at all. The inconvenience occurs island-wide, although it is more prevalent in some areas than in others. We get details of this through the print and electronic media where disgruntled patrons are only too eager to air their complaints. They describe situations in which they have to go days without the service, to not having access at all.
Despite the use of desalination plants, which make fresh water out of the sea’s infinite supply of salt water, APUA’s service problems continue. It gets worse during dry spells, which occur around this time of year. The statutory body then implements water rationing or provides service to areas in an alternate fashion, rather than simultaneously.
Last year, leading up to the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, the country and the wider region, experienced severe drought conditions. For months we endured organised interruptions in water services from APUA, due to the drought, coupled with our exhausted supplies of water.
We’ve all heard the conservation tips from the Antigua Public Utilities Authority – keeping showers under five minutes, not leaving the water running while brushing teeth, watering plants with recycled water, minimising vehicle-washing and others. Report all leaks; don’t just consider it someone else’s problem.
Each year, we experience the same hassles. Some brace for it; others are left high and dry. It’s been a year since that major drought and we wonder what’s different this year to last year, as far as our water storage system is concerned. Have we successfully increased the country’s water storage capacity? How far along has the APUA gotten in repairing burst mains? Have residents (especially those who were terribly inconvenienced in last year’s drought) taken matters into their own hands and made water provisions for themselves? Is the country in a better position than last year to handle another major drought?
These are questions to mull as we take part in celebrations this World Water Day and under no circumstances take this most precious of substances for granted.