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A waterway in northern Manitoba.

Finding ways to better protect a vital resource on World Water Day

March 22, 2021 — 

On World Water Day, what does water mean to you?

This is the theme of UN Water’s 2021 World Water Day activities—a day that celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis on March 22. It draws our focus to the value of water and what it means to people in terms of its true value and how we can better protect this vital resource.

The day is intended to support the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. Spoiler alert: we need to ACCELERATE!

The UM was named host by UN Academic Impact (UNAI) for SDG 6—the only university in North America named an SDG Hub Host—in recognition of its ongoing research and initiatives that contribute to advancement of the goal of clean water and sanitation for all.

The UM UNAI SDG 6 Hub Working Group was set up to bring together researchers and graduate students undertaking research in the areas of SDG 6, to foster knowledge sharing and collaboration.

In the lead up to World Water Day, UM Today asked some of the Working Group members: What does water mean to you? Here are their answers:

Myrle Ballard

Dr. Myrle Ballard

“Water is a core need, good for the soul.”

—Dr. Myrle Ballard, Indigenous Scholar, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, Faculty of Science


Annemieke Farenhorst.

Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst

“When I think about water, I think about H2O and an angle of 104.5 degrees,” said Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst, Professor, Soil Science, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences; Co-Chair, UM UNAI SDG 6 Hub Working Group. “I wonder about how much water there can be on Mars, and whether humanity is willing to solve the Earth’s problems before setting foot on Mars. Billions of people on Earth do not have access to safe drinking water. It is hard to comprehend billions of people; particularly when living in the Canadian Prairies with all that open space. Just consider, one out of every three people you know, does not have access to safe drinking water. In the province of Manitoba, this person is most likely to be living in a First Nations community. There are estimates that at least one in every four people living in a First Nations community in Canada, lack the human right to clean, running drinking water. I often wonder where is the humanity in addressing this issue which has gone on for way too long.”

Dr. Adele Perry

Dr. Adele Perry

“Water is history. The relationship between people and water is one that is made over time, and made in ways that tell us a great deal about relations between people and the world they inhabit.”

—Dr. Adele Perry, Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies, and Director of the Centre for Human Rights Research at UM.

Soomin Han is the SDG SDSN Youth Coordinator at UM and says that to her, “Water, as a foundation of life, brings together people, communities, the environment, and connects all these things with each other. The UN SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation plays a critical role in encouraging the efforts to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable drinking water and that we are protecting and restoring water ecosystems.”

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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