St Paul's Institute

Why Water?

by Barbara Ridpath

Posted: 22 Mar 2017

Today, on World Water Day, we are holding a virtual event. We will be releasing messages each half hour throughout the day using a variety of methods and approaches: articles, videos and infographics, poetry, and the language of business on the hashtag #justwater17 to reach people where they are. Our intention is to harness the power of social media to connect people with a similar interest in water issues across professional divides and around the world in order to demonstrate that we can do more together than separately.

People learn differently. They are moved by different things. Yet everyone's life is touched by water, and no one can survive for long without it. By using a variety of media and approaches, our hope is that everyone who engages with the programme will find something that moves or touches them, which might lead them to consider their relationship with water and what it means to them.

In my case, my love of the sea stems from early childhood and only grows with age. I love the feel of the salty sea, and looking to the horizon together with the pounding sound of the waves calms me. Away from the sea, I seek out its colours, and surround myself with shells and other mementos that transport me back to where I find peace and calm.

What is your relationship with water? What is your story? We hope you will join us in putting something out for World Water Day, using #justwater17 along with any other hashtag relevant to you and your interests. In particular, we would like you to use the hashtag to tell others one thing you will do to about water: perhaps how to conserve it, or how to appreciate it, how you will help ensure others have access to clean water and sanitation, or even just why it moves you.

Why would a cathedral organisation be asking you to do this? Cathedrals and churches on four continents have come together to raise awareness and activism about water. Through the JustWater website ( and the hashtag #justwater17, a series of events and conferences have been scheduled to coincide with the season of Lent and around UN World Water Day on 22 March 2017.

The timing permits this rich scriptural topic to weave together with a compelling theological vision centred on human dignity, justice, stewardship and community. An integrated programme with business, science, liturgy and the arts will help raise awareness, deepen understanding and build a shared community for action. The programme aims to bring people together and encourage action on local needs and concerns, whether these are flooding, drought, rising tides or access to fresh water and sanitation.

The need for water is universal. It is as necessary as air to sustain life in all its forms. Many of us take access to fresh water for granted when we turn on the tap in a way that those who walk half a day to draw water from a stream cannot. Water raises issues of justice and equity as well as being rich in theological meaning. Water-related issues look different in each local context, whether these are issues of drought or flood, rising tides or access to clean water and sanitation.

The issue of water touches on stewardship, justice and religious rites in most faiths. Nothing could be better suited to an around the world effort by churches.

About this author

Barbara Ridpath is the Director of St Paul's Institute.

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