The Water Ethics Network facilitates sharing of experience, ideas, and information about events and activities relating to water ethics. The aim is to bring an awareness of water ethics into the everyday discourse of water policies and management decisions, so that choices about water use and water ecosystem management are consciously informed by values.

Water Ethics Newsletter
   March 2012
Water Ethics News 

After the World Water Forum...Toward a New Water Ethic!    At the Forum, the Working group on Ethics, Culture, and Spiritualities organized a well-attended session, Toward an ethical and spiritual approach to water,  and issued a final commitment to continue working towards a global declaration on water ethics.  The Water Ethics Network will serve as a platform in this process, publishing drafts of the evolving Declaration, eliciting comments, and co-organizing (We're looking for partners!) meetings and workshops to develop the declaration.  See "Marseille Water Ethic" below for more details.

Other Water Forum News.  Water ethics and values were also featured in several other sessions. An Indigenous session on Culture, Rights, and Well-being, featured speakers from tribes in western North America.  The Water Observatory of the Botin Foundation sponsored a session on "Intangible Values in IWRM" and a session on local governance focused on Water Culture in Local Governance.  For more about the Forum, visit the website at 

Alternative Forum.  A refreshingly pro-environment theme was much in evidence.  The manifesto from Via Campesina demands "that the right 'of' and 'to' water should be respected within the framework of food sovereignty."  For video highlights of the Alternative Forum, click here, or visit the website at

A Marseille Water Ethic?   Our ethics working group at the Forum agreed that developing an explicit statement about ethics, in the form of a declaration, will help clarify the role that ethics can play in policy and practice.  The provisional title of this declaration, in honor of the city which hosted the Forum, is the "Marseille Water Ethic".  You are invited to comment on this very preliminary draft, either via email to, or through our Facebook page or Linked-in group (both are called "water ethics network").  This is an open, and open-ended process which is likely to continue into next year. 

News Briefs

International Water Stewardship Standard.  What does "water stewardship" mean?  The Alliance for Water Stewardship was established to answer that question, and has just released (at the World Water Forum) their first draft of a standard intended to have universal applicability.   An overview of the standard provides a useful introduction.  Visit the webpage about the Standard to read the full version and to submit on-line comments (until June 15th).

World Plumbing Day -- World Water Day -- Earth Day.  The plumbing industry is promoting March 11 as "World Plumbing Day" to draw attention to the role of plumbing in water management (see, and of course you already know about World Water Day on March 22.  Now it's time to prepare for Aprill 22 which is "Earth Day" in North America, and was recently designated "International Mother Earth Day" by the United Nations. 

Lent and Water.  For Christians, the period leading up to Easter (April 8 for most, and April 15 for Orthodox Christians) is Lent, a time for spiritual reflection.  The Ecumenical Water Network offers a series of Lenten mediations on water.

Ethics and Groundwater.  In the US state of Texas, a court ruled that landowners own the water under their land, and have the right to pump it out. Click here for the New York Times article.   The recent drought in Texas has already led companies to rely more on groundwater to buffer against insecure surface supplies. [Click here for that article.]  What about rights of Nature?  Or standards for water stewardship?

Indigenous Peoples Land and Water RightsIn a recent meeting, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee denounced the “Doctrine of Discovery”, which has been used to subjugate and colonize Indigenous Peoples. The Executive Committee issued a statement calling the nature of the doctrine" fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus”.  The origin of the doctrine goes back to the papal bulls issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 and 1455 respectively, allowing the invasion and killing of the Indigenous Peoples.  Click here for details.

To Read...

Public Trust Doctrine and Rio+20.  This report suggests that the public trust doctrine is a potentially powerful but underused mandate for natural resources conservation.

Water Security for Development.  This report from the Global Water Partnership discusses the need to consider social and environmental dimensions of sustainability, but still neglects the issue of values and ethics in guiding policies.

Regional Approaches to Food and Water Security (in the Face of Climate Challenges).  A regional framework for Southern Africa, based on a workshop held in Midrand, South Africa in May 2011, sponsored by the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Global Water Partnership.

First Nations and Water Security: Implications of Climate Change for Community Sustainability.  The top recommendation of this report, from the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources ( is to "Create a national vision for water and water governance founded upon a new water ethic. This should be based, in part, upon a renewed respectful relationship with water and First Nations participation in that relationship."

Principles for sustainable services (in rural water supply).  Triple-S uses the Principle-based Approach to guide work on rural water supply in Ghana and Uganda. This new working paper shares key concepts behind the approach and how the Principles Framework is applied on the ground.

Special Issue of Water Policy (January 2012) is devoted to the theme of Water Ethics.  This rich collection of papers, edited by Jerry delli Priscoli, Lucia de Stefano, and Ramon Llamas, reports on a conference convened by the Botin Foundation in Spain.  The papers are being made available for free download through the generosity of the Botin Foundation.

Ethics and Sustainability: A Review of Water Policy and Management in Malaysia, by Ravichandran Moorthy and Ganesan Jeyabalan.  American Journal of Applied Sciences, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages 24-31.  [Only the abstract is freely available]

A Framework for Ethical and Value-laden Considerations in Iran’s Water Policy, by M. Hashemi, J Amezaga, P. E. O’Connel,  and J. Attari.

Are You Working on Water Ethics Issues?
Please share your news with interested colleagues. Submit a brief description to Submit before 15 April for the next Newsletter to be issued on 20 April.
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Upcoming Events

Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace.  A working group of Indigenous individuals and organizations is seeking funders and partners for an international Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace which will focus on Indigenous experience, knowledge and values about water and water ecosystems.  The need for the Forum was presented to the World Water Forum in a special session entitled, "Indigenous Solutions: Spirituality and Sustainability for Water and Peace."  A more detailed proposal can be downloaded here.  If you are interested in helping plan the event, and/or can help with financial support, please contact the organizers.

The Ethics of Water—everything flows from hereDelaware Valley College, USA, October 11-12, 2012.  This interdisciplinary symposium aims to bring together academics, educators, business leaders, environmental designers, policy makers, environmental advocates, planners, engineers, attorneys and farmers to discuss issues of sustainability and regeneration.  For details, see the conference announcement.

New Initiatives

Sustainia is a new initiative announced this month by former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the EU Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard.  It is a global collaboration to advance sustainable solutions.  Ethics could -- and should -- be part of that agenda.

Featured Video

Vatn is the Icelandic word for water, and is the title of a short video by Enrique Pacheco that conveys the aesthetics of water in a beautiful and compelling way.


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Last Updated March 2012

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