Texas International Law Journal
The importance of water is difficult to quantify, but because it is necessary for survival, it deserves recognition as a human right. Although the right to water has received considerable attention, it has not yet achieved the status of customary international law.
If the human right to water becomes an accepted norm of international law, there could be differing consequences for governments. A human right is enforceable by a citizen against her government by investigating intragovernmental responsibilities in different contexts, including times of peace and more complicated relationships, such as those created in times of conflict or belligerent occupation. Different enforcement mechanisms to ensure obligations are met should be put in place.
If the right to water becomes a human right, governments may be obligated to provide water beyond their borders. A state unable to meet its needs could demand assistance from a neighbor state, especially in situations involving economic inequities or shared water resources. During conflict, governments would be prohibited from damaging water resources. After conflict, the belligerent would be required to protect and fulfill the water needs of the occupied state. Enforcement of these obligations could be achieved at the national or international level, or by horizontal enforcement.
Amy Hardberger, Whose Job Is It Anyway?: Governmental Obligations Created by the Human Right to Water, 41 Tex. Int’l L.J. 533 (2006).