Water should be a human right

June 30, 2009

In this months PLoS Medicine Editorial, the editors argue that -- despite recent international objections -- access to clean water should be recognised as a human right.

At the March 2009 United Nations (UN) meetings, coinciding with the World Water Forum, Canada, Russia, and the United States refused to support a declaration that would recognize water as a basic human right. But this flies in the face of considerable evidence that access to water, which is essential for health, is under threat, argue the editors. According to the , 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, and a further 2.6 billion lack adequate services, and these numbers are expected to rise. The UN has estimated that 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will be living in conditions of water stress or scarcity by 2025.

Three reasons are outlined for why access to clean water should be declared a basic human right. Firstly, access to clean water can substantially reduce the global burden disease caused by water-borne infections. Millions of people are affected each year by a range of water-borne diseases including diarrhea, which is responsible for 1.8 million potentially preventable deaths per year, mostly among children under the age of five. Secondly, the privatization of water—as witnessed in Bolivia, Ghana and other countries—has not effectively served the poor, who suffer the most from lack of access to clean water. As Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water issues to the president of the General Assembly of the UN, has argued, "high water rates, cut-offs to the poor, reduced services, broken promises and pollution have been the legacy of privatization."

Thirdly, the prospect of global water scarcity—exacerbated by , industrial pollution, and population growth—means that no country is immune to a water crisis. The United States is facing the greatest water shortages of its history, and in Australia severe drought has caused dangerous water shortages in the Murray-Darling river basin, which provides the bulk of its food supply.

A human rights framework, argue the Editors, offers what the water situation needs—international recognition from which concerted action and targeted funding could flow; guaranteed standards against which the protected legal right to water could be monitored; and accountability mechanisms that could empower communities to advocate and lobby their governments to ensure that water is safe, affordable, and accessible to everyone.

More information: The PLoS Medicine Editors (2009) Clean Should Be Recognized as a Human Right. PLoS Med 6(6): e1000102. http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000102

Source: Public Library of Science (news : web)

Explore further: Rural Chinese villages to get clean water

Related Stories

Water purification down the nanotubes

September 15, 2008

Nanotechnology could be the answer to ensuring a safe supply of drinking water for regions of the world stricken by periodic drought or where water contamination is rife. Writing in the International Journal of Nuclear Desalination, ...

U.N. report warns of river extinction

March 12, 2006

The United Nations is expected issue a report this week that most of the 500 largest rivers in the world are drying up or polluted.

Recommended for you

Heavy oils and petroleum coke raising vanadium emissions

December 15, 2017

Human emissions of the potentially harmful trace metal vanadium into Earth's atmosphere have spiked sharply since the start of the 21st century due in large part to industry's growing use of heavy oils, tar sands, bitumen ...

Climate change made Harvey rainfall 15 percent more intense

December 14, 2017

A team of scientists from World Weather Attribution, including researchers from Rice University and other institutions in the United States and Europe, have found that human-caused climate change made the record rainfall ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 30, 2009
This is a no brainer, unless of course the governments put money before lives.....but when has any government ever done that??
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 30, 2009
Ask the Tauregs if they ever thought of water as a basic right. Water is where it is, if you want some more, build a canal or pipeline to where more is, and hope the people who live there don't shoot you when you show up. No amount of resolving and declaring is going to make it rain where it doesn't. If climate changes, then people will have to adapt or die, as the human race has been doing (successfully, I might add) for tens of thousands of years.
3.9 / 5 (8) Jun 30, 2009
"Water should be a human right"

Normative prescriptive statements are characterized by 'would', 'should' and 'could' do not have truth values. Such statements cannot be falsified and are thus not scientific.
4.2 / 5 (6) Jun 30, 2009
That's covered in the "Right to Pursue Happiness".

If clean water makes you happy, then go for it.
Don't expect big brother to deliver it, wherever you might be.
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 01, 2009
Whatever the problem is I'm quite sure that the UN can make it three times as expensive and twice as bad.

Why is this kind of political drivel at PhysOrg? Does PhysOrg think its readers are bored with science and yearning for this kind of warmed over Marxist propaganda?

4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 01, 2009
It's responsibility of each country to provide clean water for it's citizens, signing some declaration stating how everyone is entitled to it won't change anything.
1.8 / 5 (6) Jul 01, 2009
It has relevance due to the number of articles on this site about water filtration techniques, pollution, sanitisation, salt water conversion, energy/resource usage etc...

If it is declared a basic human right then more money will be set aside for funding the scientific studies and programs that deal with all the above.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 01, 2009
I can tell the majority of the people posting are not thirsty.
3.5 / 5 (6) Jul 02, 2009
Maybe a lot of the people posting are not interested in promoting another scam by those claiming they will "solve" a problem if given more money and political power.

Maybe too, a lot of the people posting come to PhysOrg because of an interest in science, not to read some political harangue by hacks at the UN.

I'm willing to bet that not a single one of the authors of this malarky is thirsty either. Have you ever been to a UN Conference? Top of the line all the way, from the food to the drinks to the entertainment to the accomodations. And they believe strongly that they deserve it; after all they are morally superior beings saving the world while those of us paying the bills are merely feeding our families and trying to make ends meet.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 02, 2009
Way to address everything but the issue.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2009
We all have the collective right to share this world with those who will live within their means. Obsolete cultures that seek to conquer through forced reproduction have no place in this world. They force people to live in regions which cannot support them and ruin regions which normally could. They cause famine, drought, disease, conflict. End this 'warfare of the cradle' and there will be enough resources for everyone.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2009
The human race has been ruining this world for tens of thousands of years. A large swath of land from china through the Balkans to the fertile crescent has been deforested, desertified, saltified from irrigation and rendered unusable. The Sahel has been moving south for centuries. This process of ruination began soon after agriculture was invented.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 06, 2009
Otto - Sorry but I don't get your point in regards to the article. What's your point?

In regards to the article, water is a basic human need, its not a basic human right. Providing clean water may be the responsibility of government, but so is providing law enforcement, yet we still have crime. Declaring water a basic human right doesn't make it so, and doesn't change the "facts on the ground".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.