Water Scarcity and the Recognition of the Human Right to Safe Freshwater

Curry, Elliot | January 1, 2010

Millions of people die each year from water scarcity, and with a growing population, escalating climate change, deteriorating and non-existent sanitation networks, and continuing industrial pollution, the effects of water scarcity are predicted to intensify. Although water scarcity fails to register outside scientific fora, it is potentially mankind’s greatest challenge. But, there is hope: improving sanitation networks, reducing pollution and instilling aggressive conservation tactics would allay the majority of the scarcity concerns. The first, most productive step toward realizing any of these goals is for the United Nations to formally recognize a human right to clean freshwater – essentially a protected birthright to access the minimum, daily amount of clean freshwater to ensure survival. Despite some deficiencies, the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ General Comment 15 represents the best articulation to date of the right to water, and should be used as a model for any eventual addendum to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights or other covenant.