March 22, 2010: World Water Day

NEW YORK | Monday, March 22nd, 2010 5:53pm EDT

More people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence, including war, the U.N. said in a report Monday that highlights the need for clean drinking water.

March 22nd is recognized by the United Nations Water Group as “World Water Day”, this year’s theme being “Clean Water for a Healthy World”.

On this day all eyes will be turned overseas to the 1.1 billion people that lack access to clean drinking water. But only few Americans realize is that the world water crisis has hit America with little fanfare and if we do not act soon, the devastating effects will be irreversible. But luckily this year something significant is being done about it.

Although we live on a water-covered planet, only 1% of the world’s water is available for human use, the rest locked away in oceans, ice, and the atmosphere. More people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence, including war, the U.N. said in a report Monday that highlights the need for clean drinking water.

The report, launched Monday to coincide with World Water Day, said an estimated 2 billion tons of waste water, including fertilizer run-off, sewage and industrial waste, is being discharged daily. That waste fuels the spread of disease and damages ecosystems.

‘Sick Water’, the report from the U.N. Environment Program, said that 3.7 percent of all deaths are attributed to water-related diseases, translating into millions of deaths. More than half of the world’s hospital beds are filled by people suffering from water-related illnesses, it said.

The National Geographic Society also feels so strongly about the issues around fresh water that they are distributing an interactive version of their April, 2010 magazine for download (free until April 2nd, 2010) and will be exhibiting images from the series at the Annenberg Space for photography.

National Geographic was also kind enough to share some of their images below, in a collection with other photos from news agencies, NASA and etc. (36 photos, 9 pages.) [World Water Day, National Geographic and HuffingtonPost; photos via SacBee and Boston]

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The Maya believed natural wells, such as the Xkeken cenote in Mexico's Yucatan, led to the underworld. (John Stanmeyer, VII, © National Geographic)

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A cross hewn for Epiphany in the ice of Maine's Kennebec River by parishioners of St. Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the baptism of Christ. The water from the carving will bless the church. (John Stanmeyer, VII, © National Geographic)

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India's holiest river, the Ganges, is scribbled with light from floating oil lamps during the Ganga Dussehra festival in Haridwar. Hindus near death often bathe in the river; some are later cremated beside it and have their ashes scattered on its waters. (John Stanmeyer, VII, © National Geographic)

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A Balinese couple kiss while the crowd pours water over them during the traditional kissing festival called "Omed-Omedan" in Denpasar on the resort island of Bali on March 17, 2010. The annual ritual is held one day after the Hindu New Year called "Nyepi" in Bali, also celebrated as the "Day of Silence" where local young men and women gather in groups on a main road after prayer at the temple. The men compete against each other to kiss the girl while other douse the couple with water while they embrace in a kiss. (SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

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