Today is World Water Day. This is the 22nd time we have celebrated World Water Day after the United Nations General Assembly declared it so in 1993. The theme of this year’s World Water Day is water and sustainable development, which is a key issue in Mongolia.
Water is a big issue in Mongolia. Some parts of the country have extensive water resources such as in the north, while others have very little. In total Mongolia has 12,635 meters cubed of renewable fresh water per capita, six times as much as China. However, climate change has caused hundreds of lakes and rivers to dry up, while environmental degradation and over extraction have also diminished water supplies.
Water is vital to all forms of life. Poor quality water can result in disease and death. While nearly 70 per cent of Mongolia’s population have access to improved drinking sources, this figure drops to 58 per cent in rural areas (SISS/MICS, 2013).
Even more important is access to enough water. Water is needed for good hygiene practices, such as hand washing. Without adequate water people cannot use good hygiene practices and are vulnerable to hygiene related illnesses and deaths, such a diarrhea.
Urbanization in Ulaanbaatar has strained existing water resources, with up to three-quarters of a million people living in the city’s ‘ger’ districts lacking direct access to water and sanitation (Mongolia’s total population is three million). In these areas people use up to 10 liters of water a day, well below the World Health Organization’s recommended 50 to 100 liters.