Since 1993, the United Nations has designated March 22 as World Water Day, a day to highlight issues of water safety and consumption around the world.
This year, the United Nations has chosen to focus on the relationship between water and energy. Past themes have included Water and Food Security, Water and Cities, and Water Scarcity.
Water is a key component of many energy-generation methods, including hydroelectric, where flowing or falling water propels turbines connected to generators. Canada is a heavy consumer of hydropower — it produces about 60% of our electricity.
Water use is also central to nuclear, coal and gas power plants, which heat water to turn steam turbines and tap reservoirs to cool reactors and condensers. Though water is essential to energy production, moving it from place to place can be a significant drain. The UN estimates that roughly eight percent of all energy produced globally is used for “pumping, treating and transporting water to various consumers.”
To get a better idea of the relationship between water and energy, check out this YouTube playlist compiled by UN Water:
The UN’s goal in connecting water use and energy issues is to highlight integrated approaches to economic and social development in the global south.
In celebration of World Water Day, UN Water also held a Facebook photo competition. They called for amateur photos that represented this year's theme of Water & Energy. The winners were announced this week — and you can take a look at some of the stunning shots, along with captions by the photographers, in the gallery above.
That's not to ignore water usage at home, though. According to Environment Canada, Canada holds approximately seven percent of all renewable freshwater on Earth, but is also one of the world’s highest users of water per capita.
Many of these issues are explored in Canadian (and former red chair guest) Edward Burtynsky's 2013 documentary Watermark. The film explores stories about water — and the relationship between water and energy — around the world, from China's Fujian coast to the watershed of northern British Columbia. You can watch the trailer here (or if you're in Toronto, you can catch it at the Water Docs Film Festival at the AGO):
You can also check out George's interview with Robert Kennedy Jr., conservationist, water advocate and the President of the Waterkeeper Alliance (which has branches across Canada and works to preserve clean water around the world).