Aquatics community seeks action on World Water Day

Athletes and officials from across the European aquatic community are united in their view that stronger action needs to be taken to preserve and also enhance accessibility to clean water for recreation as well as competition.

To mark World Water Day, on 22nd March, LEN has spoken to a number of key individuals from the open water swimming who are arguably impacted the greatest by the recent deterioration in water quality around the world.

The challenges and potential solutions will be discussed as part of the United Nations (UN) 2023 Water Conference – 22-24 March – which is the first event of its kind for nearly 50 years.

According to campaigners, despite some global efforts, nations are “seriously off-track” meeting the ‘Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation‘ goals which are due to be achieved by 2030.

“Water is our world,” began LEN President Antonio Silva. “European Aquatics is committeed to foster a sport promoting the values of beauty and fairness in a clean and pure environment.”

According to report released last year, which surveyed 130,000 water bodies across Europe in 2020, 34% of those assessed failed to meet ‘good’ chemical status.

Most notably, rivers in Belgium, England, Germany and Sweden failed standards.

Gregorio Paltrinieri competing at the LEN Open Water Cup in Eilat – Simone Castrovillari / LEN

Olympic gold medal-winning Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy, told LEN it is an issue he needs addressing urgently.

“Of course, I’m an open water swimmer so I care more, but I think for everyone around the world it should be a really big issue,” stated the champion swimmer.

“It’s really important to keep the water clean, not just for us to swim, but for the environment and the animals, so for example, we must not throw your plastic on the beach.”

Domenico Acerenza won Olympic silver at Tokyo 2020 – Simone Castrovillari / LEN

Countryman and fellow Olympic medal-winner Domenico Acerenza was equally passionate in his response to questions about the need for action, stating “water is our world.”

“It’s really important everybody understands the meaning of what it will take to become better and leave a better future because of what’s coming,” he told LEN.

“We are fighting, if we clean, if we work together, we can clean the water and improve the planet.”

Leonie Beck won World team gold and individual silver in 2022 – Simone Castrovillari / LEN

German European champion Leonie Beck says the deteriorating conditions she has witnessed in recent years are a “big concern.”

“Yes, we’re swimming inside (the water), but if you see there are animals living inside which are dying because they are full of plastic,” she states.

“There are videos on Instagram and YouTube where you see the turtles full of plastic in the mouth and people are saving them, so I think it’s not only for open swimmers, it’s an important topic for everyone because we all must take care of our environment.”

Marco Troll at the LEN Eilat Open Water Cup – Simone Castrovillari / LEN

LEN Vice President Marco Troll is equally passionate about the importance of clean water and using the European Aquatics platform to promote campaigns as well as tips people can utilise to improve conditions across the continent and beyond.

“It’s a real challenge,” he admits.

“We need clean lakes, with clean water, for the open water swimmers but also for the animals living there – some of which we also eat through fishing.

Troll continues; “so often when you have something to drink, it’s in a plastic bottle and here at a competition that has to happen during the race (at the feeding area), but we as an organisation have people in the water to remove the bottles and keep it clean.

“We must all do everything we can to ensure we have clean water now and in the future.”

To learn more about World Water Day and learn about the role you can play in helping solve the water and sanitisation crisis, follow this link.