Sustainability Blog - by UEA staff & students Sustainability Blog - by UEA staff & students


Empowering waste water on 2017 World Water Day

“The World Water day is a day to celebrate water. It’s a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It’s a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future” – UN Water

UN Assembly Resolution 47/143 adopted on 22 February 1993 established the World Water Day to be commemorated annually on March 22 to ‘promote public awareness of conservation and development of water resources’ (Resolution 47/143).

The economic and social importance of water, the increasing demand of the resource as a result of a growing population and the need raise public awareness of the need of its sustainable management and conservation were the main drivers of the resolution.

2017 World Water Day: Focus on Wastewater

Every year, the World Water Day takes a specific topic to make us reflect on a particular aspect of water or our relation to it. In 2017 it is dedicated to wastewater. Here are some interesting facts about waste water, as stated by the UN:

  • In developing countries most cities have an inadequate infrastructure for management of waste water.
  • Waste water is a potential source of clean water and energy often denied.
  • Globally, 1.8 billion people’s main source of water is polluted.
  • Every year, around 842,000 deaths are caused by poor hygiene and sanitation as well as consumption of unsafe water (WHO/UNICEF).

Waste water and us

In simple terms, waste water is polluted water; the one that returns to the ground or to the drainage after every water use. Although it is commonly acknowledged that the low quality of waste water makes impossible any further use, reusing it can highly contribute to fulfill our daily water needs, preventing us from turning on the tap again.

In spite of the fact agriculture accounts for over 70% of global water use, while 20% to industrial and only 10% to domestic uses (UN Water, 2014), there are many ways to contribute to a better use of water at home or at the workplace. Every contribution is has a paramount importance, because the global water crisis is a matter of allocation, and a drop of water wasted at the domestic level could be a valuable source somewhere else.

Water efficiency at UEA

UEA leads a number of efforts to reduce waste water. In 2015-2016, within the Green Impact scheme, Matthew Bennett from the Chemistry and Pharmacy Labs developed a system for cooling that does not require water. This implies an efficient use of energy and no waste of water, saving 30,000 annual litres.

In Crome Court, one of the newest accommodation buildings on campus, toilets are flushed with water from the showers, and the plant-wall on the outside is irrigated from rainwater, avoiding an extra water requirement and increasing absorption of rainwater. Also, the UEA Catering Healthy and Sustainable Food Policy is committed to utilise the most efficient water equipment available.

Don't be a drip

Some suggestions to make the most of the water that runs from our taps at home are the following:

  • Try not to spend more than five minutes in the shower and you will save around 4000 litres (1000 gallons) of water every month. A five-minute shower takes 45 litres of water (Cambridge Water Company).
  • Pay attention and fix any leaks of water from any tap or shower. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, every year 40,000 litres (or 10,000 gallons) of water are lost as a consequence of leaks.
  • Install low-flow wash heads and taps to reduce the amount of water without affecting volume, and use a dual-flushing toilet if you can. These give you the option to discharge half the volume of water for liquid waste.

Thinking about of waste water is important to make a better use of the resource and avoid its pollution. In turn, this reduces the human impact in the hydrological cycle and prevents diseases and infections caused by unsafe drinking water.

UN actions

Besides World Water Day, the UN has taken other initiatives to raise awareness of the relevance of a sustainable water use. UN Water was launched in 2003 as an interagency mechanism to coordinate the UN's actions on freshwater, sanitation, and actions on water-related disasters and emergencies.

The UN Decade for Water ran from 2005 to 2015 to call on member states to commit on water preservation. In 2010 the UN General Assembly recognized the Human Right to Water (UN Assembly Resolution 64/292), calling member States to provide safe, clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water for all the people. Universal access to water and sanitation is the Sustainable Development Goal number six, set for the year 2030.

More about the author, Angel Loera

Angel is a postgraduate student in the Water Security and International Development MSc at UEA. Apart from natural resources, he enjoys reading and writing about international politics.


All images through Creative Commons