05/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reflecting on World Water Day

Today, March 22nd, people and organizations across the world will recognize the 18th Annual World Water Day raising the profile of the importance of safe, reliable water for everyone. Around one billion people -- that's nine zeros -- lack sufficient access to healthy water and World Water Day, first established by the United Nations (UN), provides the opportunity for everyone to get involved. With increased awareness created by programs that stem from events like World Water Day, 200 million people have gained access to clean water in the past decade. This is progress, but there's still much to do.

That's why everyone from activists to actors, regulators to corporate executives are helping to spread the word about clean, accessible water through a number of initiatives taking place around the globe throughout the week. Residents of communities everywhere are coming together to celebrate clean water, and organizations big and small, for- and not-for-profit, share in their resolve to address global water challenges.

Thousands of people from villages and slums across the country of India are meeting with elected officials, international organizations and community leaders to discuss the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene. In Honduras, Water For People is continuing the work it has done since 1993 to deliver clean water, sanitation services and hygiene education. The president of National Association of Water Companies member CH2M Hill, Elisa Speranza, is also the president of the Water For People board, extending her leadership position in the water community to provide water services to people in remote areas everywhere.

In Nairobi, the UN and its partners will gather for an event focused on water quality, bringing together policy makers, scientists and others to discuss how to address the challenges of degrading water quality around the world.

A wide range of issues impacts global water access, and the efforts of many of us in the water community are aimed at identifying ways to address those challenges including infrastructure, pollution, biodiversity and the impact of global climate change on water quality, to name just a few. In fact, just last week NAWC joined other organizations as a participant in the Global Water Strategy Summit here in Washington, DC.

Tomorrow (March 23), water advocates will take to Capitol Hill for World Water Advocacy Day, promoting increased engagement on global water and sanitation issues. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is scheduled to consider S. 624, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act that same day. If passed, this law would go a long way toward supporting the development of sustainable water resources and sanitation facilities in developing countries. The NAWC is a strong advocate for this bill introduced by Senator Durbin and supported by 30 of his Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle.

World Water Day provides an opportunity to celebrate how far we've come and reflect upon how much we have still to do. Today is a reminder of how we should treat this valuable, precious resource. As we reach for the handle to adjust the temperature for our morning shower, or flush the toilet, or water the lawn, or turn on the tap to get a glass of clean water, we should all consider the millions of people everywhere who are walking miles to get to untreated water to sustain life in communities and villages off the proverbial grid. Our shared challenge on World Water Day, and every day, is to identify and implement solutions to the many challenges associated with water quality, access and availability.