Shruti Patrachari, EJCW’s Volunteer Policy Specialist, shares her reflections on water access and the Human Right to Water:
Is Defining Water as a Human Right Enough to Address Water Insecurity?
Shruti Patrachari, EJCW Volunteer Policy Specialist
I go about my day carrying a water bottle in my bag, periodically filling it up when it’s near to empty. And for many of us, getting water is as simple as turning on a faucet or going to a water fountain. But, unfortunately, for every 1 in 9 people in the world, water access is much more complex (USCBE).
In 2010, the United Nations addressed water as a basic human right, entitling all people to the right to clean water. Although this attempted to resolve water insecurity, accessibility of clean water was still to be realized. It’s one thing to note, but another to implement.
Implementation was the key driving factor in this resolution. However, with various laws and different governing structures globally, it became difficult to standardize and physically intervene to provide access to clean water.
Dating back 2 years ago, Flint, Michigan experienced lead contamination in its drinking water–threatening the health of the city. Yet, after 348 days upon the declaration of the lead contaminated water, Flint’s water has not been restored. The city is in use of filters as a temporary solution to bandage the problem without addressing it at the root (Dolan, Detroit Free Press). But as long as the water source remains contaminated, the people are not assured access to free clean water.
This case doesn’t come in isolation. In fact, roughly 800 million, globally, lack access to safe, clean drinking water.
Just a day ago, violence broke out in India over water disputes, regarding the sharing of water amongst neighboring states, potentially leaving these neighboring states waterless. The current government lacks a formal system in defining water rights, thus causing these disputes. Upon this event, a whole state of Tamil Nadu in India could lose access to their water come September 20th, if the agreement is not renewed, thus shutting down their main access source located in the other state (Najar, The New York Times).
Access serves as the fundamental barrier to ensuring everyone claims the right to clean water. However, this access is also difficult to achieve given environmental constraints. In Somalia, there was a severe shortage in rainfall, persisting the long drought and intensifying fears of water insecurity. Within this region, agriculture and food production suffered resulting from the inability to water the crops. This had many implications on the people, including rising food product prices in the economy up to 80%, as well as increasing malnutrition by 6% due to the inability to afford crops other than corn and cereal–or products that store for long (FSNAU).
Addressing water access is challenging in the postmodern world, resulting from varied bureaucracies, institutions, government structure; however, with local reform, education and involvement we can be vital players in helping mitigate water insecurity locally, federally, and globally.
So tomorrow, when I go to refill by bottle, I will consider the privilege of having water right at my fingertips.
Shruti Patrachari Shruti Patrachari is an Environmental Economics & Policy and Conservation & Resource Studies student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is committed to fighting for social justice and has worked with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture to develop educational material around environmental stewardship.