The effects of dirty water and poor sanitation are responsible for thousands of deaths every month, according to United Nations estimates, so this year the theme of World Water Day — water and jobs — is focused on the 1.5 billion people the UN says are working to bring clean water to people around the world.

World Water Day, held on March 22, highlights concerns about the world's water resources and in 2016 is focusing on how access to safe water can create paid work and contribute to a greener economy.

We're our own worst enemy when it comes to clean water.

A woman takes a drink of water in El Crucero, in western Nicaragua, in February. The effects of mining, cattle ranching and government mismanagement are behind the Central American country's drinking water and sanitation crisis, according to the U.K.-based NGO Water Aid. 

world water day Nicaragua Feb 2016

(Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

Flint, Mich., is drinking, bathing and cooking with bottled water.

Soon after Flint switched its water supply to cut costs, residents began complaining about the colour and taste of the liquid coming out of their taps — the culprit: toxic levels of lead and iron.

Since Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency last year, corporations, sports teams, church groups and celebrities have responded with millions of bottles of water to meet residents' daily demand, which has created a disposal problem secondary to the long-term effects of heavy metal poisoning.

world water day MICHIGAN-WATER crisis March 5 2016

(Jim Young/Reuters)

  

Refugees are forced to rely on bottled water, too.

One of hundreds of refugees caught on the Greek-Macedonian border in March drinks thirstily from a bottle handed out by volunteers near the Greek village of Idomeni. The sheer numbers of people in camp, on the overland route to Western Europe, has outstripped the capacity of the town's infrastructure, putting additional strain on resource-tapped Greece to provide basic necessities to the migrants.  

world water day Idomeni refugees bottled water March 2016

(Marko Djurica/Reuters)

The quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives.

The UN's World Water Day website — UNwater.org —explains how clean water for drinking and sanitation has the power to "transform workers' lives and even societies." However, for billions of people around the world, daily water still comes from lakes and rivers. Here, a girl collects drinking water from the Dala River, outside Rangoon, Burma, in March. 

world water day March 2016 Burma water collection

(Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

For many in the industrialized world, bottled water has become the norm.

A common question posted online by Westerners travelling to China is: "Can I drink the water?" The answer is mostly no, although Hong Kong's tap water is proudly proclaimed by the government to be "amongst the safest in the world." For many visitors and locals alike, however, buying bottled drinks from vending machines like these is a part of daily life.

world water day Hong Kong vending machines Feb 2016

(Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Water is central to sacred rights the world over…

In Japan, as in countries around the world, fresh water plays a role in many sacred rites. At the Daikyoji Temple, in Tokyo, visitors clean their hands and mouths with a scoop of natural spring water to purify themselves and wish for good fortune.

world water day Kaikyoji temple Tokyo divine water March 2016

(Issei Kato/Reuters)

…but providing basic necessities is a far more utilitarian matter.

Water pipes run the length of a causeway connecting Singapore and Malaysia's southern city of Johor Bahru. The conduits are a literal lifeline, transporting up to 946 million litres of water, accounting for approximately 60 per cent of Singapore's daily needs. 

world water day Singapore water pipes March 2016

(Edgar Su/Reuters)

Transporting water home can be back-breaking work.

In the war-ravaged Gaza town of Khan Younis, many of the trappings of civilization, including pipes to carry water, have been blasted away. One of the few remaining residents, this Palestinian man carries water home by donkey in March.

world water day Palestinian donkey transport March 2016

(Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

War makes meeting daily water needs all the more difficult.

A woman carries repurposed gas cans to a well located at a local charity's public tap in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in March.

world water day Yemen March 2016

(Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

 

Back-to-back dry seasons have left Sao Paulo's reservoirs bone-dry.

In a country home to much of the Amazon rain forest, Brazil is suffering under the paradox of a lack of fresh water. Drought, coupled with failing infrastructure, is behind the worst water shortage in over 80 years, affecting the 20 million residents of São Paulo. Villagers like these children in Amazonas State, whose nearby lake has dried up, are forced to rely on trucked-in drinking water. 

world water day Amazonas Brazil March 2016

(Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

Record-setting dry led to ruin in California. 

Robert Hooper, exhausted after several days with little sleep, was one of hundreds of Californians left homeless after the so-called Valley Wildfire swept through drought-parched scrubland near the town of Middleton in September 2015. The Northern California wildfire ranked as the most destructive ever to hit the drought-stricken state.

USA-WILDFIRES world water day March 22 2015

(David Ryder/Reuters)