It’s World Water Day (22 March) and we have joined the global public campaign on the theme for 2021 of valuing water. The campaign is designed to generate a worldwide conversation about how different people in different contexts value water for all its uses.
So we asked researchers, students and staff at the Cabot Institute for the Environment, what does water mean to you? Whether it is something learnt through research, personal experiences or simply what you think when you think of water, we asked our community for stories, thoughts, and feelings about water!
All responses including ours and many others across the world will be compiled by UN-Water to create a comprehensive understanding of how water is valued and to help safeguard this resource in a way that will benefit us all.
Cabot Institute for the Environment researchers and students are doing lots of wonderful and important work to deliver the evidence base and solutions to protect water (find out more). Here is what some of them shared with us for World Water Day #Water2me.
What does water mean to you?
“Water is the most special substance on Earth. Everyone has a relationship with it. It is ubiquitous yet still enigmatic. As a hydrologist I have been working for years to better understand where it goes after it rains. As a person who grew up in semi-arid Cyprus, I know that water scarcity can shape a culture as much as it shapes the landscape. As a person who has been living in the UK, I know that too much water can also shape a culture. Too little or too much – water is both a life giver and a life taker. It is everywhere, nowhere, hidden, precious, ever changing, elusive, wondrous, yet taken for granted.” - Dr Katerina Michaelides, Co-lead of Cabot Institute for the Environment water theme
“Liquid water can take any shape of its recipient. As water vapor, it becomes invisible and travels into the air… but it is still there. As ice and it can sometimes provide a hard surface. Water reminds me of adaptation and opportunities. We face a global challenge in ensuring water to all living beings on Earth, but the nature of water tells me that we must adapt to any changes coming in future years and turn challenges into opportunities to develop more sustainable and earth-friendly measures to tackle our societal needs.” - Dr Rafael Rosolem, Co-lead of Cabot Institute for the Environment water theme
“Water is the essence of life and its tiny moving molecules connect almost everything on Earth – bodies of water in rivers, glaciers, oceans, atmospheres are connected to our bodies as humans. What happens in one body trickles down and impacts others, so we have to be careful with how we manage this vast cycle of water, and of life.” - Professor Jemma Wadham, Director of Cabot Institute for the Environment
“When you grow up in a country, where 2/3 is a desert with 1 hour of water supply per 48 hours (mainly at 2am!), water is more precious than oil and sometimes gold.” - Dr Hind Saidani-Scott, Cabot Institute for the Environment researcher
“Simply put, water means health, safety, and life 💧 Without clean water, access to this becomes limited, whereas with it - we can thrive 🌍” - Olivia Reddy, University of Bristol PhD candidate and member of Cabot Institute for the Environment 'Cabot Communicators' group.
As a kid to me water meant fun, it sparked feelings of joy and excitement for swimming in the ocean and having a good time. While water remained a magical thing to me, as I grew older, I began to consider its role as a global resource, its precarity, need for protection and how lucky I was to have access to it. Now as I undertake my research at Cabot, I am learning more about the spirituality and sacrality of water amongst indigenous cultures, not only as a “resource” but at as point for worship, ceremony, and community and something to learn from. Today I understand water as part of us as well as our world” - Lois Barton, post-graduate researcher, Global Environmental Challenges, Cabot Institute for the Environment
“The first thing I would have said when asked to think about water two years ago is a refreshing glassful from the tap. But watching the film Cowspiracy and following this up with my own research into animal agriculture has made me look at water differently. Now, I think of water in terms of cows. 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 33% of freshwater usage globally! For me, a new understanding of water and water-use was a key factor in prompting the decision to change to a plant-based diet and advocate that others do the same for the good of the planet and the people who do not have water on tap like I do every day.” - Lucy Morris, post-graduate researcher, Global Environmental Challenges, Cabot Institute for the Environment
Hidden Water: Valuing water we cannot see
Cabot Institute for the Environment is also hosting a public event for World Water Day (17:15 GMT, 22 March 2021) which is bringing together two leading researchers to discuss the value of ‘hidden water’ resources: groundwater and glaciers.
Dr Debra Perrone, University of California, will discuss her research which revealed millions of groundwater wells and strategies to protect them. Professor Jemma Wadham, Cabot Institute for the Environment, will discuss the impacts of glacier retreat in the Peruvian Andes and solutions to adapt to these changes. Chaired by Cabot Institute for the Environment water experts, Dr Katerina Michaelides and Dr Rafael Rosolem. More information here.
Join the discussion
What does water mean to you? Tag @cabotinstitute and #WorldWater #Water2me on Twitter to let us know.
This blog is written by Adele Hulin, Cabot Institute Coordinator at the University of Bristol, and Lois Barton, Cabot Institute for the Environment MScR student and temporary communications assistant at the Institute.