It’s something we all know, but may take for granted. Water is life. As we celebrate World Water Day today, take a minute to appreciate the importance of water as a vital resource for everything we do. Water is essential for conserving nature. It is connected to all human activity and to every other living thing on the planet. It helps maintain the “ecosystem services” on which we depend. What are these “services?” They are actually quite basic things found in nature such as healthy wetlands that protect us from floods and improve water quality and fertile soil that makes it possible for plants to grow. We need water to keep trees and other plants alive so they can continue to keep us cooled and breathing—indeed, plants are vital to making the very oxygen we breath. In addition, we need water to grow food, to produce energy, for drinking, and for washing to safeguard human health.
In today’s interconnected world, water challenges in one part of the world have far-reaching ripple effects. Food security, critical supply chains, health security, regional stability—all of these depend on the sound management of water resources. We know this because we see people migrating from severely drought-stricken areas of the world—like right now in parts of Africa and even in Spain and Portugal. The opposite problem is also challenging parts of the world where too much rainfall is drowning communities in countries like Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, where two recent strong cyclones have displaced millions from their homes. One of my top priorities is to conserve nature for the people and communities that depend on it for their livelihoods. To achieve this goal, we need to build a water-secure world, where people and ecosystems have sustainable, reliable, clean, and climate-resilient access to the water they need and protection from storms and flooding when they need it. This is the future of water we want and strive for.
To me, the future of water depends on a few key things. First, we need to significantly raise political will at all levels to prioritize water through investing in water infrastructure and services, protecting freshwater resources, and improving how we manage water. Next, we need to continue to encourage people and communities everywhere to advocate for policies and practices that strengthen water security and do so equitably. Finally, we need to better integrate water management and water security into our approaches to climate change, physical security, energy, and health security.
The United States is already working towards this goal. Under the U.S. Global Water Strategy, the Department of State leads an effort with more than 20 other federal agency partners to advance our vision for a water-secure world. Together, we exchange knowledge and expertise with water managers all over the world on how we manage our water resources, the data and information we collect and share with stakeholders, and strategies that work to expand reliable access to water. Through technical assistance, financing, and partnerships, we have helped more than 53 million people gain access to safe drinking water in the last decade. We are also working to support health care facilities in securing access to water, sanitation, and hygiene—to control the spread of diseases, such as COVID-19 and strengthen health care service delivery.
We must also prioritize safe and secure water here at home. Through efforts like the Water Reuse Action Plan, the U.S. government equips utility operators, regulators, researchers, and community organizations with information and resources to catalyze greater action on water reuse and expand the availability of water supplies all over the United States. With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, we are investing $55 billion to expand access to safe drinking water for households, businesses, schools, and childcare centers all across the country. From rural towns to struggling cities, the legislation will invest in water infrastructure and eliminate lead service pipes, including in Tribal Nations and the disadvantaged communities that need it most.
In the United States, we are fortunate to have the resources and technology to deal with water crises—drought and floods—but we know that the key to success is adaptation. We cannot fight or deny that climate change is making the world more water stressed. That’s why we are working to invest in and conserve water resources globally. We are partnering with people, governments, and organizations around the world to build the future for water that we need. We know we must change our patterns and practices of water use and prepare for what is to come.
So as we celebrate the natural resource that gives us life, let’s try to all do our part by conserving water in our homes and businesses—the change begins with you. I hope that together we can build a future of water where everyone has sustainable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. A future where water does not drown cities and coastlines. A future where water unifies people and countries, rather than divides them. A future where we recognize the value of water and protect this life-sustaining resource. I am optimistic that this future is possible if we all begin to act today. Happy World Water Day!