Without water, life is impossible. Such a basic fact should imply that all human beings have, if they have any rights at all, a fundamental right to water.
And yet, it was not until 2010 that the international community fully and explicitly recognized the right to water.
That year, the UN General Assembly declared that “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights,” and called upon states and international organizations to work together to “provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.” Such belated attention highlights the growing awareness of a “global water crisis” that threatens the lives and dignity of billions of people around the world. Although the natural sufficiency of water is a real problem for some parts of the world, the scarcity that drives this crisis is, as the 2006 UN Human Development Report notes, “rooted in power, poverty and inequality, not in physical availability.” As such, addressing the crisis will require the mobilization not only of economic resources and scientific expertise, but of public participation and political courage at all levels of society.