Social Action Office

World Water Day

Jump in! Get your feet wet!
Make a splash!
Together we can make a difference.

Introduction: No matter who we are, where we are, and what we do, we are all dependent on water. We need it every day, in so many ways. We need it to stay healthy, we need it for growing food, for transportation, irrigation and industry. We need it for animals and plants, for changing colours and seasons. However, despite the importance of water resources in our lives and well-being, we are increasingly disrespectful of them. We abuse them. We waste them. We pollute them, forgetting how essential they are to our very survival.

2003 is a year of opportunity. It is a year for us to focus our attention on protecting and respecting our water resources, as individuals, communities, countries, and as a global family of concerned citizens. It is a time for recognising the impact of war on the earth’s resources, and on those members of the human community whose existence will be at risk. 2003 is a year for action and reflection. During this year we have a chance to mend our ways, to take stock and make a difference. By protecting our freshwater, we help to ensure our future and our planet’s long-term prospects.

Water in Australia: As we listen to the rainforest stream, let us get in touch with our own experience of fresh water - its importance in our lives, times when we revelled in it, times when we were conscious that it is a limited resource. Share your story with the person beside you.

(Story sharing)

Global Water Concerns: Listen to this extract from a letter to the nation by Tim Winton, popular Australian novelist.

There’s nothing more basic to human survival than freshwater. Australians know this in their bones. Water consciousness and water anxiety are the legacy of coming of age on an arid island. But how conscious are we of the global picture, the crisis beyond our shores? While we fret for our lawns and gardens, millions of our fellow humans die for lack of water or suffer unspeakably from water that’s contaminated. It’s not just a technical or geographical issue, but also a moral issue. Let’s translate our anxiety into empathy and use our success, our wealth, and our experience, to give our neighbours access to this basic right-pure, safe water.

Water for the Future is the theme for World Water Day 2003. It calls on each one of us to maintain and improve the quality and quantity of fresh water available to future generations. This is essential if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goal - to halve, by 2015, the number of people living without safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Currently over 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion to adequate sanitation. The world population is about 6 million.

Water Matters emerged in response to this global water crisis. It began in the UK a couple of years ago as a partnership between Tearfund UK and Water Aid. It has built coalitions in Australia between NGOs, one of whom is the Social Action Office. TEAR Australia coordinates the campaign. We will now watch their 3-minute video, which is promoting a campaign to call on the Australian Government to respond to these global concerns. Then share your responses with the person beside you.

(Video and sharing)

Why should Christians be concerned? The members of religious orders at the UN prepared a Fact Sheet, which includes a statement of beliefs, a modified version of which we will say together:

We believe...

  • All life springs from water. Water is unique. It cannot be substituted for. Water symbolises what is sacred and spiritual in all religions and cultures. Access to water is a basic right of all living beings.
  • Protection of creation is a commitment for which all must feel responsible. We believe that the earth has its origins in the divine, and we humans have a duty of care because we are kin with it.
  • For this reason, a radical cultural change is necessary. There must be a “conversion” based on our recognition that all parts of the Earth community are interconnected. This, in turn, leads us away from indiscriminate to responsible use of Earth’s resources.
  • Access to water, fit to drink and enough to sustain the life needs of people, is a basic human right, not a privilege. So, in speaking of water for the developing world, we speak, not of charity or generosity by the rich nations, but of human rights and justice, that are the prerogative of every person who shares this earth with us.

What can we do? Water Matters is making three calls on the Australian government:

  1. To spend $100 million per year on water and sanitation provision.
    This amount is the bare minimum that is needed for Australia to pay its fair share of the global costs of water and sanitation provision. As of March 2002, Australia gives $33 million in direct aid in this area, but much more is needed to reach the 2015 target. (Data from ACFOA)
  2. To encourage good governance in the provision of water and sanitation services.
    Water and sanitation provision needs to be part of an integrated process. Ecosystems and water catchments need to be managed for the interests of all. Those affected must have a real say in the process of water service provision.
  3. To ensure that any participation by the private sector in water and sanitation provision benefits the poor.

The Australian Government is willing to make an effort. Much of its aid is already providing water and sanitation services in developing countries. However it does need to increase aid funding and make constructive contributions to international negotiations on water and sanitation provision. At Johannesburg, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Australia was one of the last countries to agree to the sanitation target. The Australian Government represents us. It is therefore vital that Australia be a constructive member of the international community in negotiations about water and sanitation issues.

What can I do?

Making a Commitment: If you want copies of the postcards sent to you when they become available, please write your name, address and the number of cards on the sheets at the door.

Let us now pray together for our world and the whole of the earth community - in recognition of the critical times that we are living in, and for the strength to live now and into a sustainable future:

God, Ground of all Being, Source of all Life, we recognise you in all of creation, and we celebrate and give thanks for our lives and that of the earth and the universe. We hear the call to live as brothers and sisters with the whole of creation, in a spirit of respect based on our kinship. We are especially mindful of those parts of the earth community that will be most affected by the violence that we are living into. We ask for your strength to abide by our convictions, and we ask the support of one another as we face these challenges. So be it!

Solidarity and Sending Forth: We will experience the solidarity in the movement of the Midwives Song, as we go forth into a troubled world.


20 March 2003

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