An indigenous woman with a baby on her back fills a clay pot with water, Myanmar. Photo by Franck Charton, UNICEF]
The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water by adopting a resolution.This world day for water was to be observed starting in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development contained in chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21.

States were invited to devote the Day to implement the UN recommendations and set up concrete activities as deemed appropriate in the national context.

Silent Prayer/Amritsar, India Copyright Guido Mueller/The Wideangle
The Theme of World Water Day 2006 was Water and Culture under the leadership of UNESCO .

The theme 'Water and Culture' of 2006 drew the attention to the fact that there are as many ways of viewing, using, and celebrating water as there are cultural traditions across the world. Sacred, water is at the heart of many religions and is used in different rites and ceremonies. Fascinating and ephemeral, water has been represented in art for centuries - in music, painting, writing, cinema - and it is an essential factor in many scientific endeavours as well.

Photo: FAO 18765
The Theme of World Water Day 2005 was: Water for Life 2005 - 2015.

The United Nations General Assembly at its 58th session in December 2003 agreed to proclaim the years 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life", and beginning with World Water Day, March 22, 2005.  The Water for Life decade set the world’s goals on “a greater focus on water-related issues, while striving to ensure the participation of women in water-related development efforts, and further cooperation at all levels to achieve water-related goals of the Millennium Declaration, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit for Sustainable Development and Agenda 21.” 


The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
and the World Meteorological Organization have been charged with co-ordinating events on the day.

The message of the Day was: Weather, climate and water resources can have a devastating impact on socio-economic development and on the well-being of humankind. According to the World Meteorological Organization weather and climate-related extreme events, such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, storms, cyclones, floods and drought, account for nearly 75 per cent of all disasters. They lead to an enormous toll of human suffering, loss of life and economic damage. Monitoring these events, predicting their movements and issuing timely warnings are essential to mitigate the disastrous impact of such events on population and economy.

Photo: FAO 18437

Water for the Future was the theme for World Water Day 2003. It called 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.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was the the lead UN agency for World Water Day 2003. The goal was to inspire political and community action and encourage greater global understanding of the need for more responsible water use and conservation.

Photo: FAO 19370

Water for Development was the theme for 2002. The Internation Atomic Energy Agency was the coordinating UN agency. The currectly poor and deteriorating state of water resources in many parts of the world demand integrated water resources planning and management.


Water for Health - Taking Charge was the theme for 2001. The WHO was the coordinating UN agency.

The message for the day was: "Concrete efforts are necessary to provide clean drinking water and improve health as well as to increase awareness world-wide of the problems and of the solutions. 22 March is a unique occasion to remind everybody that solutions are possible. Use the resources on this site to help turn words into political commitment and action.”

Traditional transport of water in an isolated Andean village, Ecuador. Photo by J. Cassagne, UNESCO
The availability and quality of water is increasingly under strain. Even if conditions were to remain constant for the foreseeable future, much of the world would find itself in a state of water-related crisis. To make matters worse, populations are growing most rapidly in those areas where water is already in scarce supply”.


This is how Wim Kok, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, starts his welcome words in the second announcement for the Second World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference that began in the Netherlands in the week prior to 22 March 2000.

From 17–22 March 2000, hundreds of water specialists, politicians, leading experts and top officials from all across the globe convened in The Hague. The event marked the conclusion to a long series of sessions during which thousands of concerned citizens addressed the water crisis that threatens us all.


Excessive flooding of major rivers in the world in 1998 have resulted in thousands of deaths and caused enormous damage in China, Bangladesh, and India, where nearly half of the world population lives. They were not only the result of excessive rains, but also of interference by mankind in the river basins. These tragedies make us realize that virtually everybody in this world lives downstream. UNEP was the coordinating UN agency.

Photo: FAO 6025
The sixth annual World Water Day (WWD) was celebrated on 22 March 1998. As per the recommendations of the 17th meeting of the ACC Sub-Committee on Water Resources, UNICEF and the United Nations Division of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), took the lead in organizing the observance of World Water Day in 1998.


The message of the day was: Water is a basic requirement for all life, yet water resources are facing more and more demands from, and competition among, users.


The 3rd annual World Water Day was celebrated on March 22, 1996, with the theme, Water for Thirsty Cities. It emphasized the growing water crisis faced by cities across the world which threatens the sustainability of their social and economic development.

Women carrying water vessels, Guatemala. Photo by André Abbe, UNESCO
For the first time Lesotho celebrated the "World Day for Water", on March 22, 1995. The international theme for the day was 'Women and Water'. The Department of Water Affairs organized two main activities for the celebration of the Day: on water pollution and on environmental degradation.


The Theme of World Water Day 1994 was 'Caring for Our Water Resources is Everyone's Business'