Formal recognition of the human right to water by the United Nations is a vital first step to ensure that all people have access to this most basic human need. Yet the United States government has historically opposed this movement. It is time for the administration of Barack Obama to take a stand for human rights and throw its support behind a U.N. resolution that codifies the human right to water.
Background: The Human Right to Water
For more than a decade, water justice groups have been calling for legal recognition of the human right to water at the United Nations (UN) — as well as at national and local levels — in order to ensure access to safe water for billions of people. Nearly two billion people live in water-stressed areas and three billion have no running water within a kilometer of their homes. Every eight seconds a child dies of a waterborne disease that would be preventable with access to safe water and adequate sanitation. According to a recent World Bank report, by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by 40 percent. A UN declaration on the human right to water would give all people equal access to “sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.” International norms set by UNICEF and the World Health Organization define this as a 20 liter daily minimum (5.2 gallons), increased to 50 liters per day when including bathing and laundry needs.