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World Water Day 2013: Water Is Just the Beginning

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For many of us, today will be a day like any other. We'll hop in the shower, pay homage to the coffee machine, throw our dishes into the dishwasher, flush the toilet, and wash our hands a time or two -- we might even remember to stop and share a few drops of water with that droopy office plant that always seems to be looking neglected.

For many of us, life without water is nearly unfathomable. We are fortunate enough to forget that simply having access to clean, safe water, sanitation and hygiene allows us to lead healthy, productive lives without pause or second thought.

This week, however, we are giving pause. On March 22, we are coming together to observe the 20th anniversary of World Water Day, and consider the 783 million people globally who still do not have safe water -- not because it's not there, but because they simply can't get to it. 783 million is a whole lot of people, and we have finally run out of excuses for not delivering. We know how to beat this, and we have the skills and technology to do so today.

If you've been following WaterAid on Facebook and Twitter, you know that we have been counting down the days to World Water Day by looking at 20 ways that water is just the beginning: the beginning of the first steps out of poverty, the beginning of putting food on the table. It's the beginning of keeping children healthy and in school, and it's the beginning of a safer, more dignified life, especially for women and girls.

Over the past 30 years, in places ranging from the mountains of Ethiopia to bustling cities like Dhaka, Bangladesh, and small towns on the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua, WaterAid has helped 17.5 million people in some of the world's poorest communities build and maintain their own safe water supplies.

We have seen lives transformed when the hours spent carrying water from miles away are instead spent with family, tending crops, raising livestock or starting a business. And we have been privileged to share in the joy of mothers and fathers who have seen a night-and-day difference in the health and well-being of their families with simple changes to sanitation and hygiene practices in their communities.

This week, WaterAid is launching a new report entitled Everyone, Everywhere. The report sets out a vision for making safe water and sanitation available to all by 2030, and reviews the progress that has been made to date in ending water poverty.

Despite reaching the Millennium Development Goal target for access to water in March 2012, our report highlights how the lack of progress in improving access to sanitation and hygiene is acting as a brake on progress in economic and human development -- particularly in child health, nutrition and education. If progress continues at its current rate, more than 2.4 billion people will still be unable to access basic sanitation facilities in 2015.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way.

Today, for the first time in history, the longstanding goal of achieving a world in which every woman, man and child has access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities is finally within reach. It will not be easy. But World Water Day is an opportunity for us to urge stronger cooperation between governments, NGOs, foundations and corporations to finally accomplish this goal. It demands sufficient political commitment, innovative partnerships, integrated approaches and greatly increased, carefully directed financial investment.

Ensuring that everyone enjoys the right to sustainable water, safe toilets and hygiene education will yield huge dividends in the fight to eliminate poverty, and we have ample evidence to show that. By investing in water, we are investing in the ability of communities to help themselves.