World Water Day | Be the Change and Be Water-wise Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
Running water from a stainless tap
Dr Lize Barclay outlines the significance of World Water Day and the responsibilities that come along with it.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023 is World Water Day with the theme “Be the Change”, specifically “Be the change you want to see in the world”. World Water Day is aligned with the activities of the United Nations as a result of the Water Action Agenda which resulted from the UN 2023 Water Conference, based upon Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is not on track regarding meeting its set targets.

World Water Day focuses on the need for accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crises in the world. Many people take water for granted, as it seems to, simply put, flow out of a tap. However, many people do not have access to clean, safe, and dependable water and sanitation. Globally, 1 in 10 people lack access to clean water and only a quarter have access to a toilet. Throughout the world, especially in the Global South, more than 900 children under the age of 5 die on a daily basis due to diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and contaminated water. On average in rural Africa women have to walk 6 kilometers daily to convey 20 litres of water. In South Africa, 19% of the rural population does not have access to a reliable water supply and 33% lacks basic sanitation services. Almost 30% of schools and half of the clinics in rural and urban areas have no access to water.

Climate change is also increasing the severity of droughts and floods, with increasing temperatures adding to the need for accessible water sources. Factory farming, especially animal agriculture, is in some cases very water intensive, and at the same time, it pollutes water sources with chemicals from pesticides. At the moment 90% of power generation is extremely water intensive.

As a society, we tend to easily put the burden upon the government or expect businesses to deal with complex situations for us. However, increasingly people are realising that we could do our part, because systemically the actions of each individual add to the collective whole for good or to the detriment of the planet and society. Water is a precious resource and we should protect and conserve our water sources. It is indeed everybody’s privilege and responsibility to do their part and be the change and be water-wise.


On World Water Day, and every day thereafter, you could do the following:

  1. Plant a tree, as it reduces the risk of flooding and also adds to localised temperature control, thus reducing the impact of the urban heat island.
  2. Rethink what you cover the soil in your garden with, and remove that which causes fast runoff of water, which in turn contributes to the problems around stormwater blockages and flooding. Replace that with natural or water-friendly solutions which enable water to add to groundwater stock and protect the environment.
  3. Host or participate in a clean-up activity of local rivers, beaches, lakes, and wetlands.
  4. Reduce your use of harmful chemicals in and around the house.
  5. Limit your usage of single-use plastic, as that eventually ends up in our water sources, especially groundwater, and has been found in drinking water throughout the world as micro-plastics.
  6. Shop sustainably and locally more often, because that will protect the global water sources from exploitation and harmful chemicals.
  7. Consider eating plant-based and local, as that will reduce the use of water and it will prevent additional methane and carbon from entering the atmosphere, adding to climate change problems.
  8. Save water in the home and at work, by taking shoring showers, turning off the tap while brushing teeth, and thinking about water-wise ways of using greywater for irrigation of your garden.
  9. Read up and understand the global water cycle and the systemic impact you as an individual, have and what you could do to protect water locally, regionally and nationally.
  10. Donate to organisations that provide water and sanitation solutions to poor and rural communities.




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