In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as World Water Day.

Every year, for the past 22 years, World Water Day has been celebrated globally on this day, shining the spotlight on different issues related to water and sanitation.

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is: “Water and Sustainable Development.” It seeks to illustrate the linkages between the need to match the exploration of limited fresh water reserves with those of meeting the sustainable developmental needs of mankind.

From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in the social well-being and inclusive growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions.

As demonstrated over the years human development and settlement has been greatly determined by availability of water. When drought occurs, life styles are greatly disrupted and countries suffer great economic losses and settlements are destroyed.

In deserts, sustainable human settlements are around the Oasis. There therefore cannot be sustainable development without access to sustainable quantities of water.??Adequate access to potable water and sanitation has always been one of the most important factors influencing the quality and standard of life worldwide.

Whereas, many countries like Barbados have limited freshwater resources available, the startling fact is that the use of alternative water sources, such as seawater or treated wastewater, offers a great potential for reducing the pressures on limited freshwater reserves. These alternative sources, however, tend to be more costly than conventional freshwater sources and bring with them the issues of equitable access and affordability.

The Millennium Development Goal target 7c called for reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation by 2015. In a progress report on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012, published by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, it was pointed out that between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources.

Further, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in March 2012 announced that this MDG target #7 had been met, and went on to state that: “The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the MDGs not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people.???

Despite this achievement, today nearly 1 billion people in the developing world still do not have access to safe drinking water. It is an undisputable fact that water is the most important natural resource for life and many countries, both developed and developing, have grappled over the years with issues of water scarcity. Clean and safe drinking water can often be a scarce commodity to obtain.

With the current population growth rates in developing countries and the need to produce more food, demands on the world???s freshwater resources are unsustainable.

In addition, inappropriate land-use practices and the inefficient use of water pose a threat to the quantity and quality of water available and have been shown to lead to the over pumping of aquifers, reduction in surface water flows and degrading of wildlife habitats.

In this regard, in Barbados, as a water scarce country, there is an urgent need for us to increase efficiency in the use of water at all levels. This is necessary to ensure that water availability does not become an impediment to the economic and social development of the country.

I urge agriculturalists to use sound water management practices by selecting more efficient methods such as drip irrigation and water harvesting techniques for irrigating their crops and, most importantly, increase crop productivity with respect to water usage. At domestic level, I urge Barbadians to use water efficient fixtures and adopt water conservation practices and habits.

With increased intensive agriculture and inappropriate wastewater and garbage disposal practices, water pollution may worsen. Experience from high income countries shows that a combination of incentives, including more stringent regulation, enforcement and well-targeted subsidies, can help reduce water pollution. Polluted water sources can become a serious threat to human beings, fish, animals and development.

Another threat to our water resources is that of climate change; research has shown that climate change is likely to negatively impact fresh water sources. Current projections show that freshwater-related risks rise significantly with increasing greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating competition for water among all uses and users, affecting regional water, energy and food securities.

Combined with increased demands for water, this will inevitably create huge challenges for water resources management.??Barbados is fortunate to have a water supply system that is safe, reliable and of the highest quality. This has come about as a result of clear foresight by our leaders and great investments in infrastructure, human capital, monitoring, control and protection of our environment and water resources.

Over the past twenty or so years the Barbados Water Authority has recognised that it has an ageing infrastructure, which has resulted in water outages and frequent disruption of service in some areas and has taken several steps to address this.

As demonstrated by the on-going projects, we have invested and will continue to invest significantly in projects aimed at upgrading and expanding the water and wastewater infrastructure, improving operational efficiencies, protecting our water resources as well as the management of the organisation to better serve the public. My Government intends to continue to place the development of water resources at the top of its agenda.

Author: Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries & Water Resource Management

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