Why World Water Day matters

Nearly every week of the year there is some sort of international or national day of significance. In fact, there are so many, it’s easy to stop paying attention. But today is a truly important one: World Water Day.

Our collective ability to design and build systems to deliver clean and safe water to the masses is an unsung, crowning achievement. It has allowed us to grow humanity, and, also, to build our cities, which drive global economic growth and development. No one can go more than a week without water. That’s why water is at the core of sustainable development.

The water crisis
Despite this progress, the World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. That’s staggering. It’s important that those of us with ready access to water do two things: 1) be thankful and not take it for granted and 2) support efforts to expand access to water and sanitation to everyone on the planet (achieving SDG 6).

The current use of water by humanity is irresponsible at best. In some parts of the world, we are rapidly using up available ground water sources, with aquifers drying out. Wetlands are disappearing and, water from lakes and rivers is too often overused in inefficient agricultural practices. And companies around the world are literally pouring millions of liters down the drain. On top of all of this, climate change, population growth and rapid urbanization have placed even more stress on our finite supply of water.

How we’re making a difference
At Arcadis, we help clients with all stages of the water cycle, from water resources (raw water in the environment), to treatment (turning raw water into clean, drinkable water), to transmission and distribution (taking water from point A to point B so people can access it), to sanitation (taking waste water and converting it into non-harmful water that can safely be returned to nature). And in arid environments, we support water reuse, which eases pressure on existing resources. This also reduces the need to treat water to make it potable, thus saving energy and carbon emissions.

Sensible water use and management are within reach for many communities and Arcadis assists a growing number of clients in making their use of water more responsible. This includes aquifer recharge strategies as applied in Santa Monica, California. Additionally, many industrial organizations can save millions in liters and dollars, through responsible water use strategies and the application of circular water management principles. In agriculture, we apply natural capital know-how to reduce runoff of sediments or agro-chemicals to surface waters.

Clean and safe water for everyone
There’s still so much to do to provide clean water for everyone and the frontlines of this battle are in the developing world. In the Philippines, we have an amazing team of water engineers, who are supporting development of the capital city of Manila. Like many of the world’s major urban areas, it’s predicted that Manila will have a massive influx of people over the coming decades. As that city expands, citizens will need new water supply schemes and, in some areas, first-time sewerage systems. Our people in Manila are helping that city prepare for the future water needs of citizens.

And finally, it’s also important that those of us in the developed world never take our access to water for granted. Many cities and towns have water systems that were put in place decades ago. Over time, major investments will be needed to repair or update those systems, to make sure that citizens have easy access to clean, safe and cheap water. So, World Water Day is important not only for spurring action to help those who don’t have ready access to clean water, it also reminds those of us who do that we should never take this precious resource for granted and must continue investing in our water and sanitation systems.

Joost Slooten
Global Director Sustainability & External Affairs


Joost Slooten

Director of Sustainability and External Affairs +31 20 2011083 / +31 6 27061880 Ask me a question