World Water Day

Image of Blue deep sea foaming water

Water is one of the planet’s most precious resources. That’s why it’s important to stay aware of the issues surrounding it. World Water Dayexternal icon is observed each year on March 22 to promote the responsible use of water and access to safe water for everyone.

Water holds immense value. Every day, people use water in different ways including drinking, agriculture, industry, recreation, hygiene, sanitation, and health care. Water resources are precious and finite. Warming temperatures and other natural and human-made stressors threaten to further impact the quantity and quality of our water on a large scale. This year, World Water Day highlights the value of water, the essential role water plays in our lives, and how we can better safeguard it.

Access to Water

Global access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene resources reduce illness and death from disease and lead to improved health, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the urgent need for universal access to safe waterexternal icon, as frequent and proper handwashing with soap and water is one of the most effective actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even so, many people lack these basic necessities, leaving them at risk for water-, sanitation-, and hygiene (WASH)-related diseases. In 2017, globally, more than 785 million people did not have access to at least basic water services and more than 2 billion people (more than 25% of the world’s population) lacked access to basic sanitation.

CDC programs, such as the Safe Water System, can help communities improve their drinking water and prevent disease by promoting behavior change and providing affordable short-term solutions. People using this system:

  • use locally made, affordable dilute bleach solution to disinfect their water;
  • store the safe water in containers designed to prevent recontamination; and
  • improve hygiene habits through behavior change.

Diarrheal Diseases

Many diarrheal diseases, such as typhoid fever and cholera, spread through unsafe water and sanitation. Although rare in the United States, outbreaks of typhoid and cholera continue to occur in low-resource countries. Together, these diseases sicken millions and kill an estimated 257,400 people each year.

Safeguarding water sources and developing and maintaining water and sanitation systems to keep feces out of water, food, and the environment are critical to preventing diarrheal diseases. In areas without a consistent safe source of safe water, people often resort to using sources that are more likely to contain germs that cause diarrhea.

Places that have extremely high rainfall and flooding conditions may also experience contamination of drinking water sources and ground crops—for example, when latrines overflow. Many germs causing diarrheal diseases spread from human waste into drinking water or a community’s food supply when there is no sanitation facility that can safely separate waste from human contact.

Water is also important for prevention and treatment strategies to combat these diseases. Safe water is a key part of regular handwashing with soap—one of the most important practices a person can follow to prevent the spread of germs. Furthermore, the foundation of treatment for cholera and many other diarrheal diseases is oral rehydration therapy—a treatment that requires safe water to dissolve sugar and salt, which the patient then drinks to replenish fluids lost through frequent diarrhea.

CDC works to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks in the United States and around the world and provides technical support in cases of emergencies. In addition, CDC has partnered with the World Health Organization to launch Ending Cholera: The Global Roadmap to 2030external icon, a collaborative approach to cholera prevention and control.

What You Can Do

Everyone can play a role in protecting the planet. Celebrate World Water Day.

  • Wash your hands at key times to avoid spreading germs.
  • Avoid wasting water; turn off the faucet when you’re not using it.
  • Spread awareness in your community about protecting water quality and availability.
  • Join a worldwide conversation by sharing what water means to you on social media using #Water2me.
  • Learn more about global water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues around the globe.
  • Visit the UN’s World Water Day siteexternal icon for more information.

World Water Day is also an opportunity to learn about water-related issues that affect us locally. For more information about CDC’s water-related public health efforts in the United States, visit CDC’s Healthy Water website.