World Water Day: #EveryDrop Matters

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days throughout the year. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of World Water Day, I introduce our seventh blog in this marine series:

World Water Day: #EveryDrop Matters

Dedicating a whole day to water seems appropriate considering that over 70% of our planet is covered by it. However, while we might live on the ‘Blue Planet’, the UN estimates that 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, and 1.9 billion people live in potentially severely water-scarce areas, a number that is expected to increase to 3 billion people by 2050.

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Predicted water availability per person in 2025. Source: United Nations Environment Programme

 

Only 2.5% of all water on the planet is freshwater, and the majority is either locked in frozen form as snow and ice or stored underground as ground water, leaving a mere 0.3% of the world’s freshwater accessible as surface water – which means that only 0.0075% of all water on the planet is accessible to us in a form that could be used for drinking water.

So, what’s the point of these numbers? The point is that a steady, near-infinite supply of clean, safe drinking water is not a given fact. This is why World Water Day has been created – to bring attention to the importance of water.

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Ok, so meme aside … the sassy kid has an excellent point: If you are lucky enough to have access to a safe, reliable source of water – why buy bottled water? Not only is single-use plastic one of the biggest threats to our environment, but production of bottled water also has a shocking carbon and water footprint: Depending on the production process bottled water requires as much as 2,000 times as much energy and 3 times as much water to produce as tap water does. And if you need another reason to cut down your bottled water-use, a recent study shows that up to 93% of all bottled water contains microplastics.

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The main focus of World Water Day is to bring focus to achieving the key targets set by UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. However, while access to both clean water and sanitation certainly is a challenge in rural Mozambique, where Love The Oceans operates, our local communities are facing a far more pressing water management issue: To sustainably manage, conserve and protect their marine resources.

Nearly 33% of the population in Mozambique lives within 25 km of the coast, and small-scale fishing is the primary activity and sources of income for approximately 70% of the households in our region. Unfortunately the ocean off the coast of Mozambique is under pressure, just like most other marine ecosystems on our blue planet are.

The main threat is unsustainable fishing driven by the use on unselective fishing equipment, resulting in overfishing and high rates of bycatch. Tragically, overfishing and bycatch isn’t just problematic because it removes top predators and decimates fish populations, the problem also trickles down the food chain to the source of most life in the oceans – the coral reefs:

High fishing pressure fundamentally changes the dynamics of coral reefs by decreasing the biomass of fishes and apex predators, reducing coral coverage and leaving the reefs less resilient to effects of climate change, such as coral bleaching.

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In addition to being home to 25% of all life in the oceans, coral reefs also supply a number of vital ecosystem services including coastal protection and flood storm control – services that will become increasingly more important as the acceleration of climate change will result in bigger and more frequent storms. Solving the issue of overfishing and unsustainable fishing is therefore key to ensuring healthy coral reefs and the preservation of vital ecosystem services.

At Love The Oceans we aim to solve this problem by working towards establishing a Marine Protected Area through a bottom-up, community-lead approach: Through research and education we aim to enable our local communities to manage and preserve their marine resources to ensure sustainable fishing stocks and a healthy ocean for generations to come. We do this by educating the future generations in the schools and working with local fishermen to build the much needed local capacity in marine conservation and encourage a change towards sustainable fishing.

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Now, what does securing clean drinking water and establishing sustainable fishing have in common? Both are targets set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, goals 6 and 14 respectively, and tightly linked to sustainable development, reducing poverty and increasing living standards for billions of people around the world.

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So, if the mere 0.0075% of the planet’s water that’s drinkable can receive so much attention, surely we can muster only a fraction of that commitment to the 96.5% of the planet’s water that provides us with oxygen, livelihoods, food security and vital ecosystem services.

Happy World Water Day, and remember #EveryDrop matters – so do your bit, however tiny it might be!