Rivers have always been the key to the sustainability and advancement of mankind, and there’s a holiday once a year to raise awareness on why they remain important.
World Rivers Day is a celebration of the world’s waterways. The holiday, held every last Sunday in September, is to promote the value of our rivers, striving to bring public awareness and encourages the improved stewardship of all the rivers worldwide.
In 2005, the United Nations launched the Water for Life Decade to create awareness about taking better care for our water resources. The establishment of World Rivers Day was in response to a proposal initiated by renowned river advocate, Mark Angelo.
The proposal for a global event was based on the success of BC Rivers Day, which Mark Angelo had founded in western Canada in 1980. A World Rivers Day event was seen by agencies of the UN as a good fit for the aims of the Water for Life Decade and the proposal was approved. The first event in 2005 was a great success and Rivers Day was celebrated across dozens of countries.
Since then, the event has continued to grow and now several million people across more than 60 countries celebrate the values of our waterways.
Rivers and streams support a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals. Riffles and pools are habitats for a large range of aquatic species, and marginal and bank side vegetation support an array of wild flowers and animals. Rivers and steams also provide a wildlife corridor between fragmented habitats in farmed and urban areas.
In their natural state, rivers are dynamic systems continually modifying their shape. Unfortunately, their ability to rejuvenate and create new habitats have been hindered by flood defense structures and impoundments, so much so in areas like the UK have been physically modified in some way to aid drainage or improve navigation.
Streams can reduce the pollution that flows to downstream rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters. They are able to retain sediments and excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and prevent these pollutants from traveling further downstream where they could cause algal blooms or dead zones.
In honor of the holiday, here are some tips you can use at home to take care of our water and water sources near you:
- Run washing machines & dishwashers only when they’re full. Large loads = less water used. And save energy by turning off the auto-dry setting and letting your dishes dry naturally.
- Keeping a timer in your bathroom will help you take a shorter shower. And please turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. All that perfectly clean tap water is just going down the drain.
- Turn off lights and unplug chargers. Water is used in all forms of energy generation. It can take over 4 gallons of water to keep a 60-watt light bulb lit for 12 hours.
- Use biodegradable cleaning products. The water that goes down your drains will eventually flow into streams and bays.
- Skip meat for one meal a week. It can take about 600 gallons of water to produce a hamburger. (Think of all the grain that’s grown to feed the cattle.)
Rivers are important to our ecosystem and our survival. They help maintain the wildlife living in them and can provide clean drinking water, among other things. World Rivers Day is a way to acknowledge the importance of rivers and find ways to support them now and in the future.