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World Water Day 2011: Responding To The Urban Challenge

March 22nd, 2011

One in two people on this planet live in a city. More than 900 million — live without access to clean water and 2.6 billion have no access to adequate sanitation.

Today is World Water Day. This year’s theme, Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge, aims to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems and ultimately encourage governments, communities and individuals to address the challenges of urban water management.

From UN World Water Day:

This is the first time in human history that most of the world’s population live in cities: 3.3 billion people …and the urban landscape continues to grow.

38% of the growth is represented by expanding slums, while the city populations are increasing faster than city infrastructure can adapt.

Every second, the urban population grows by 2 people.

5 million people are joining the urban population in developing countries each month. 95% of the urban population growth will take place in the developing world.

In Africa and Asia, the urban population will double between 2000 and 2030.

A lack of safe water and sanitation in cities causes cholera, malaria and diarrhea.

827.6 million people live in informal settlements without access to clean water.

For many of us in the United States, these statistics are staggering. Water might be the most taken for granted resource we enjoy. Think about it: we Americans use more than 2,000 gallons every day — twice the global average.

So what can you do?

The easiest and most important thing you can do is to be mindful of how much water you use. Think about ways you can cut back and encourage others to do so. Check out National Geographic’s freshwater footprint calculator here.

Or take action by donating to a charity working to bring potable water to those without. There are organizations like Water.org or Safe Water Network whose work has brought clean drinking water to thousands; there’s also UNICEF’s  Tap Project, where restaurant diners donate $1 for every free glass of clean water they are served. Do your part!

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