By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – March 21, 2016 – Comment

The theme of this year’s United Nations World Water Day takes me back to when I was a kid. After experiencing my parents getting gifts and a special dinner for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, I asked my mom, “When is kids’ day?” To which she replied, “Mark, dear, EVERY day is children’s day!”

Well, that certainly wasn’t the answer I was hoping for! But I came to understand that parents work hard and go out of their way every day 24/7 to celebrate their children and to make sure they have everything they need to be healthy, grow and thrive… it’s simply what they do and their efforts often go unnoticed. So, one day is set aside for everyone to consider, as well as celebrate, everything that parents make possible.

The 2016 World Water Day theme – Water and Jobs – is like Mother’s or Father’s Day for the global water movement in that it seeks to draw attention to the world’s 1.5 billion people working in water-related sectors, as well as the power that water has to transform lives. World Water Day 2016 focuses on opening dialogues about the correlation between water and jobs… jobs and economic growth… economic growth and opportunities for social advancement as well as a sustainable planet.

The campaign helps rein in what could be a very unwieldy topic by calling out several key areas of focus:

  • Water utility workers: Greater demand in the water sector requires more and more innovate talent.
  • The one billion fishermen and forestry workers worldwide: All of them depend on ample quantities of quality water for their livelihood.
  • Farmers and agricultural workers: Responsible for feeding 7 billion people, farmers are facing climate variability and other water shortages, making their challenges greater than ever.
  • Water quality and sanitation: Every hour, 38 workers die from water-related diseases that could be prevented with better water and sanitation in developing nations.
  • Water carriers: In many parts of the world, it’s not rare for a woman to walk 6 hours or more to get water for her family or village. Her “job” goes unpaid and unrecognized, yet prevents her from obtaining a more empowering job. 

Several of these topics may seem strange to those of us living in the U.S., but UN-Water has identified these topics as the core global water activism necessities to “make a difference especially for the most vulnerable people on our planet, but also for all future generations.” It’s also good to keep in mind that even in the U.S., there is a need for continued support of water-related jobs, as they have a direct economic impact on local communities and beyond. In fact, the 2014 National Economic & Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector report showed that water, wastewater, and storm-water utilities will contribute $524 billion to the national economy over the next decade, supporting 289,000 permanent jobs. We’re proud to be part of those economic engines in the regions we serve and to the nation as a whole.

So, this March 22 on World Water Day, we’re called on to consider and talk about the role water plays in our own jobs and the prosperity of the communities around us. Let’s continue to recognize the vital roles of workers in the water sectors, as well as the impact their continual efforts to deliver quality water plays in providing everything from our daily leisure and entertainments, to alleviation of disease and poverty.