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Right to Water


Read the full report.Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation in the United States


VICTORY: Big Win in Mexico on the Human Right to Water

Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation

The Human Right to Water at the UN

The UN General Assembly voted on the right to water and sanitation resolution on July 28, 2010. 122 states voted for the resolution and 41 abstained, including the U.S.  No state voted against the resolution. While the resolution is not legally binding, it is a huge step in the right direction. Our network of allies has been fighting for over 10 years toward legally binding recognition of the human right to water at the UN– we are clearly on our way!

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About the Right to Water

We believe that water is a common resource to which we all have an equal right and a responsibility to protect. So does the United Nations.

Water is enshrined in the right to life and dignity, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 2002, the United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted water as a right to ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to safe drinking water.

However, the right to water is violated daily: According to the World Health Organization an estimated 1.7 billion people still lack access to clean water and 2.3 billion people suffer from water-borne diseases each year.

Water-borne diseases occur due to the inability to provide clean water, but increasingly due to the unaffordable pricing of water. Pre-paid water meters are installed in poor areas to ensure profitable supply and services are cut-off if citizens fall behind on their payments.

Privatization of water has only exacerbated the problem. So what does the right to water mean?

We are working with allies around the world to enshrine the human right to water in an international treaty.

To find out more, check out these publications:

Countries Recognizing the Right to Water

  • 1994, Panama: A constitutional amendment recognized the State‚ responsibility to guarantee water for adequate development;
  • 1995, Ethiopia: “[P]olicies shall aim to provide all Ethiopians access to [..] clean water;”
  • 1995, Uganda: The State is obliged to fulfill fundamental rights to social justice and economic development including clean and safe water;
  • 1996, Gambia: “The State shall endeavour to facilitate equal access to clean and safe water;”
  • 1996, South Africa: “Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water;”
  • 2004, Uruguay: Uruguayans approved a constitutional amendment by popular vote guaranteeing the right to water
  • 2005, Colombia: Article 366 establishes the state’s obligation to satisfy unmet needs in health, education, and water.
  • 2005, DRC: Article 48 establishes a citizen’s right to drinking water.
  • 2008, Ecuador: Section one establishes the right to water.

Countries working towards recognizing the right to water: Belgium, France, Guatemala, and Kenya.