Santa Clara Journal of International Law
Water provides a natural framework in the role of ethics because ethical issues are present in every facet of water management. The value of water and the creation of ethics dictate decisions regarding water resource management. Value can be assessed from factors including happiness, well-being, or intrinsic value. Once a value is assessed, obligations that dictate actions regarding this issue are generated, and an ethic is created.
Various domestic and international policies have, both explicitly and implicitly, called for a human right to water. The presence of domestic and international policies that recognize or protect a person’s right to water are central towards realizing a universal water ethic. Because water is a natural resource, ethical concepts that apply to the people and the environment have bearing. A common source of water ethics can be found in religion, with most religions promoting both the stewardship and the protection of water resources.
As a result of the intrinsic value placed on water, existing cultural and religious ethics should become more central in decision-making. The need for a water ethic arises out of decreasing resources and increasing demand. With large populations lacking access to clean water, a new dialogue has started about the role of water. New choices need to be made about how water is managed, and ethics can guide those decisions. Changing how we value water is key to a successful water policy. Value cannot be limited to economics; it must be expanded to include the importance to the environment and its life-giving capabilities.
Amy Hardberger, Why We Do the Things We Do? The Role of Ethics in Water Resource Planning, 6 Santa Clara J. Int’l L. 129 (2008).