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World Water Day


Household water treatment using a clay storage vessel

The United Nations (UN) designated March 22 of each year as World Water Day, with the overall objective to draw attention to conservation and development of water resources, through advocacy, publications, and the organization of conferences focusing on each year’s unique theme.

Official Website

Dates of Celebration and Additional Resources


March 22, 2017

CDC Features: World Water Day 2017

World Water Day is observed each year on March 22 to promote the responsible use of water and access to safe water for everyone. One in 10 people around the world still do not have a safe water supply close to home 1.

Water is one of our most important natural resources. Every day, people, animals, and plants depend on water for their survival. Water is necessary for food growth, energy production, individual well-being, and global health. Nearly half of workers around the world (1.5 billion people) have jobs related to water 2. Many industries rely on water for their survival as well, including fishing, agriculture, manufacturing, and food service.

Reducing Wastewater

This year’s World Water Day theme focuses on wastewater, which includes sewage, storm water, and unused water in the community 3. Many underdeveloped countries are not able to properly manage wastewater due to limited resources, technology, and space. Wastewater in low-income countries is rarely treated or disinfected before being put directly into rivers, lakes, or oceans. This pollutes the environment and increases the chance for people to get sick 4.

One of the targets of the World Health Organization’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all, focuses on reducing the amount of untreated wastewater by half and increasing the recycling and safe reuse of water around the world by 2030 5.

Now is the time to address these challenges to keep the global water supply safe and available for generations to come.

Visit the United Nations’ World Water Day website for more information on World Water Day and ideas on how to get involved.

World Water Day also presents 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 Drinking Water, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene-Related Emergencies and Outbreaks, and Healthy Swimming websites.

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

Since 1990, the number of people who have access to safe drinking water sources and sanitation facilities (latrines or toilets) has increased by 2.6 billion and 2.1 billion, respectively 1. Despite these gains, hundreds of millions of people still do not have access to these basic human and public health necessities. Lack of access to drinking water and sanitation increases the chance for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid fever to spread 1.

CDC’s Global WASH group works with other U.S. government agencies, foreign Ministries of Health, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, private companies, and various international agencies. The partnerships help to improve global access to healthy and safe water, proper sanitation, and hygiene.

Story from the Field: Sanivation

CDC is committed to increasing access to sanitation facilities, especially in underdeveloped countries with limited resources. When a start-up group of recent university graduates approached CDC with an innovative idea—to provide toilets for households in need and use the human waste to make fuel—a new, collaborative partnership began.

Established in 2011, Sanivation installs locally manufactured container-based toilets in Kenyan households to people who pay a small monthly fee that guarantees on-call and twice weekly visits by service representatives. Sanivation representatives collect the waste and treat it with solar thermal energy to create low-cost briquettes, similar to compressed charcoal or coal, for cooking and heating homes.

CDC staff helped Sanivation examine how well and under what conditions (such as temperature and time) solar thermal treatment kills the germs in human waste. With additional support from CDC and USAID, Sanivation plans to expand its waste collection and treatment services to institutional and other waste streams, making the environment safer for the entire community. Innovative public-private partnerships such as this are critical for continued improvements in access to sanitation and hygiene services across the globe.

  1. UNICEF and WHO. Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water—2015 Update and MDG Assessment. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. 2015. [PDF - 90 pages]
  2. UN. World Water Day. 2017.
  3. UN. Environmental Indicators: Inland Water Resources, Wastewater. 2011.
  4. UN. Wastewater Management—A UN-Water Analytical Brief. United Nations. 2015.
  5. UN. Goal 6: Ensure Access to Water and Sanitation for All. United Nations. 2016.


March 22, 2016

CDC Features: World Water Day 2016

Each 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. Nearly half of workers around the world (1.5 billion people) have jobs in water-related industries 1. Many industries rely on water to perform jobs, such as fishing, agriculture, manufacturing, and food service. Societies and economies depend on the people who work to keep the water we drink safe.

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, including changes in the earth’s climate. Climate change impacts water quality and availability, the infrastructure that provides access to safe drinking water, and the spread of waterborne diseases.

The World Health Organization estimates that an additional 250,000 people will die per year between 2030 and 2050 as a result of climate change 2. Diarrheal diseases from contaminated water and lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene will be a major cause of these additional deaths 3.

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.

Story from the Field: Cholera in Kenya

The world is currently experiencing an El Niño event that is bringing heavy rain and flooding to East Africa, while southern Africa is experiencing a drought. In the past, El Niño events have been linked to cholera outbreaks in the Africa Great Lakes Region countries 4. A large cholera outbreak has been ongoing in Kenya since January 2015. Patients in this outbreak did not have adequate access to safe water and sanitation services and did not practice proper handwashing 5. Infrastructure needs to be developed in response to changes in climate that affect access to safe water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

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. 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 6. 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. UN. World Water Day. 2017
  2. WHO. Health in 2015: from MDGs to SDGs (Chapter 2). [PDF – 24 pages] 2015.
  3. WHO. Health in 2015: from MDGs to SDGs (Chapter 5). [PDF – 32 pages] 2015.
  4. Nkoko DB, Giraudoux P, Plisnier PD, Mutombo Tinda A, Piarroux M, Sudre B, Horion S, Muyembe Tamfum JJ, Ilunga BK, and Piarroux R. Dynamics of Cholera Outbreaks in Great Lakes Region of Africa, 1978–2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(11):2026-34.
  5. Githuka G, Rotich J, Kigen H, Catherine K, Waweru B, Boru W, Galgalo T, Githuku J, Obonyo M, Curran K, Narra R, Crow SJ, O’Reilly CE, Macharia D, Montgomery J, Neatherlin J, De Cock KM, Lowther S, Gura Z, Langat D, Njeru I, Kioko J, Muraguri N. Notes from the Field: Ongoing Cholera Outbreak – Kenya, 2014-2016. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(3):68–9.
  6. UNICEF and WHO. Progress on drinking water and sanitation: 2014 update. 2014.