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World Water Day 2015

Women with washing potsEach year on March 22, World Water Day attracts international attention to the conservation and development of freshwater resources.

Water is a finite resource that is fundamental to human health and well-being. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water is also an essential part of sustainable development.

Managed efficiently, water plays an important role in strengthening the resilience of social, economic, and environmental systems in the face of rapid and unpredictable changes. As cities around the world—particularly in developing countries—continue to grow by leaps and bounds, global water use is expected to increase by 55% through 2050.1 Managing our water resources responsibly in the face of this growth is vital to ensuring sustainable development.

Water is Health: Water is essential to human health and survival. The human body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Access to basic hygiene and sanitation facilities helps people to stay healthy and prevent the spread of disease.

Water is Nature: Freshwater depends on the continued healthy functioning of ecosystems. However, most economic models do not recognize the essential services provided by freshwater ecosystems, leading to unsustainable use of water resources and ecosystem degradation.

Water is Industry: Did you know that it takes more than 2 gallons of water to make 1 sheet of paper? Every manufactured product requires water and global water demand for manufacturing alone is expected to increase by 400% from 2000 to 2050.

Water is Energy: Water and energy are close partners. Water is required to generate energy and energy is required to deliver water. Today over 80% of power generation is by thermal electricity, which uses steam (created by heated water) to drive electrical generators.

Water is Food: Globally, agriculture is the largest user of water, accounting for 70% of total water use. By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60% more food globally, and 100% more in developing countries.

Water is Equality: Climate change negatively impacts freshwater sources, increasing competition for water among all uses and users. This competition, in turn, affects regional water, energy and food securities.

Now is the time to address these challenges and to commit to the responsible management of water resources to ensure sustainable development in the present and for generations to come.

For more information on World Water Day and ideas on how to get involved, visit the United Nations' World Water Day website.

Solar sanitation

Story from the Field

Solar sanitation is an inexpensive, innovative, and effective form of human waste treatment that uses concentrated solar energy to treat waste so it can be safely discarded or potentially used for fertilizer or fuel. CDC, CDC Kenya, and the non-governmental organization Sanivation have a solar sanitation project in the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, which houses more than 100,000 refugees. More>>

CDC's Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Expertise

Inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions exist in a range of settings, from temporary refugee camps to entire neighborhoods in large cities.

Since 1990, the number of persons able to access improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities* has increased by 2.3 billion and 1.9 billion respectively.2 Despite these gains, hundreds of millions still lack access to these essential resources, making them susceptible to life-threatening WASH-related diseases ranging from cholera to typhoid fever to hepatitis.2 CDC's global WASH work involves partnerships with other US government agencies, ministries of health, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, private companies and various international agencies. Our program provides expertise and interventions aimed at saving lives and reducing illness by improving global access to healthy and safe water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene.

The WASH program works on long-term prevention and control measures for improving health, reducing poverty, and improving socioeconomic development as well as responding to global emergencies and outbreaks of life-threatening illnesses. These improvements reduce illness and death from WASH-related disease and help to promote improved overall health, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development.

For more information on CDC's Global WASH Program, visit the CDC at Work section of our Global WASH website.

*An improved water source is defined as water that is supplied through a household connection, public standpipe, borehole well, protected dug well, protected spring, or rainwater collection. Improved sanitation facilities usually ensure separation of human waste from human contact.


  1. WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme). United Nations World Water Development Report 2014: Water and energy. Paris, France: UNESCO; 2014.
  2. United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization. Progress on drinking water and sanitation: 2014 update. 2014.