Journal Title

Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights





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The Right to Water should be an independent, explicit human right. As such, the status of the right to water would be raised to the status of customary international law (jus cogens), imposing an affirmative, obligatory duty an all nations. Historically the right to water has been included in the right to life, limiting the right; however, that approach undermines the essential importance of water and causes enforcement problems that would be avoided by regarding water as an independent right.

Landmark international agreements, treatises, and the work of various international entities and other non-governmental organizations have made tremendous strides in instituting the right to water as an important issue. Still more progress is needed. The United Nations (“UN”) adopted two pivotal human rights covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), and the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”), which explain the human rights guaranteed by the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) and, in doing so, gave rise to Comment No. 15, which regards water as “one of the most fundamental conditions for survival,” supporting its recognition as an independent human right which is divisible into three categories: availability, quality, and accessibility.

Water, as a fundamental condition for life, should be regarded as an independent, explicit right, elevating the right to the status of a customary international law, imposing an obligatory duty and best satisfying human needs.

Recommended Citation

Amy Hardberger, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Water: Evaluating Water as a Human Right and the Duties and Obligations it Creates, 4 NW. J. Int'l Human Rights 331 (2005).

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Water Law Commons