Marina Kissin is a 2021-22 Tzedek Fellow, learning about global poverty and development with a diverse cohort of students and young professionals. On World Water Day 2022, she reflects on the path to achieving true water equity

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

The 2.2 billion people worldwide who live without access to clean, safely managed drinking water understand this sentence all too well.

World Water Day – a United Nations initiative – has been held on 22nd March every year since 1993. It aims to draw attention to the plight of these 2.2 billion, educate, and galvanize initiatives to tackle the problem. This is part of the 6th UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): to achieve universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and basic handwashing facilities by 2030.

The theme for World Water Day 2022 is “Groundwater: making the invisible visible”.

Groundwater is stored beneath the Earth’s surface and makes up almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world. This little-discussed, vulnerable resource is vital to achieving sustainable clean water access.

On World Water Day, let’s also increase the visibility of important facts about improving access to safe water for all.

Firstly, let’s see where we are relative to that 2030 goal:

According to Our World in Data (2021), 70% of the world population had safe drinking water when the SDGs were developed in 2015. In 2020, that had increased by just 4% . To achieve 100% access by 2030, the rate of progress needs to more-than-triple.

Access to safe sanitation increased from 47% to 54% between 2015 and 2020. The rate of progress on this metric also needs to more-than-triple, if we hope to achieve our goal.

Finally, access to handwashing has increased by 4% from 67% in 2015. Again, this rate of change just isn’t fast enough.

These figures paint a discouraging picture. How do we encourage acceleration of development?

A two-pronged discourse might help. As well as raising our voices about the shortfall, we can also increase awareness of the tractability of some water issues, and the knock-on benefits of addressing them.

According to the Joint Monitoring Progress Report 2000-2017, 1.8 billion people have gained access to drinking water, 2.1 billion people have gained access to basic sanitation services, and the proportion of the global population practicing open defecation has halved in that time. Although progress is not uniform across the globe (Joint Water Supply and Monitoring Programme, 2015), much progress has been made, showing what is possible!

Improved drinking water and sanitation has demonstrated particular benefits for women and girls. It helps to reduce girls’ absence from school due to menstruation.  80% of households without an onsite drinking water supply rely on women and girls to collect water (UN Women, 2019). Therefore, having water facilities nearby reduces time spent fetching water, increasing the time women and girls can devote to education and employment.

Reduction in infectious diseases is another benefit of safe water. Rates for water-born infections like cholera, guinea worm disease and trachoma all drop with safe WASH facilities.

Regarding this year’s World Water Day theme – initiatives for sustainable groundwater management will help to protect the water supply of the most vulnerable communities on Earth from the vicissitudes of climate change.

These are just a few of the current and potential benefits of tackling the water crisis. In a climate of scepticism about the effectiveness of global development, and opposition to International Aid, it’s important to bring to light how possible change really is, and the manifold benefits it holds for us all. With motivation and investment, we can achieve the ancient vision:

“…let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” – Amos 5:24


To learn more about development as well as its connections to Judaism, consider signing up for the next cohort of the Ben Azzai Programme. Deadline to apply: 4th April 2022.

Alternatively, read more about our Fellowship here.

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