World Water Day 2020

World Water Day, greetings from our president Manuel BALTAR "Thermal greetings from Ourense.  I am Manuel Baltar, the President of the European Historic Thermal Towns Association,  a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe since 2010. Each year our network marks World Water Day on 22nd March by focusing on and celebrating our unique thermal water sources, our springs, fountains, baths and treatment centres, and the benefits they bring to our communities. We are fortunate to have sources of healing waters at the heart of each of our towns, and usually we take a look behind the scenes of our thermal establishments so that visitors and residents can understand more about what makes our thermal towns so special. This year, the theme of World Water Day is “Water and Climate Change” and how the two are inextricably linked. The United Nations, which organises World Water Day tells us that  “adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives. That using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases. And that we cannot afford to wait.  Everyone has a role to play.” One of the themes this year is about “taking good care of water” – something that we already care about in our thermal towns: We protect our sources from pollution, by maintaining a clean environment around our towns, and they are even more healthy places to visit as a result. We measure and monitor our water sources, making sure they are safe for our customers to use, and that they maintain the unique balances of minerals and salts that give them their particular qualities. We instinctively know that some of our hotter waters can be used to lower carbon emissions  by  using them to heat buildings.  In this way we can contribute to the “carbon-smart urbanisation” that the UN also encourages. Our model of tourism is inextricably linked to water, the life-sustaining element that we all have a duty to protect.  We are dedicated to health, to physical and mental wellness, and to protecting the natural environment that surrounds our towns.  We encourage our visitors to explore “slow” and less environmentally-damaging tourism, with an emphasis on locally-sourced food and drink, and travel by rail, for example.  We encourage them to  take time out, to relax,  walk in parks and gardens and surrounding countryside, and focus on their health and well-being, in ways that no other form of tourism does.  We know that this model is good for people, and good for the environment. It would be impossible to talk to you in  these difficult times, as COVID-19 spreads throughout the globe, without acknowledging that we all have a particular challenge to face.   We are reminded of the importance of clean water and good sanitation for every single person, each time we wash our hands.  But we are also facing, as tourist and health destinations, extremely difficult circumstances at the moment, as visitors stay at home, and tourism slows and even comes to a complete halt in some places. Our hearts go out to our many colleagues in Italy in particular at this time. Not one of the countries in our network is unaffected by the virus, and it is for this reason that we are encouraging our members to mark World Water Day online, without bringing people together for tours, talks, and visits, as we usually would. We will continue to talk to each other, to find solutions to help each other to recover from the effects of the virus in the days ahead, and to understand how our thermal water towns can lead the way in rebuilding, once the threat of the virus has passed.  As an Association we will be working to ensure that we find creative ways to keep promoting and helping our members.  Our towns have re-invented themselves throughout the centuries, and have stood the test of time, all because of that most precious resource, at the centre of each of them, the life-giving, healing, strengthening water. I hope that wherever you are, you are safe and well."