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
   May 2013

Ethics of Urban Water Design

Singapore's Water Agency Wins Award.   If "responsible use" of water means not wasting it, what does "responsible design" mean?  For PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, it means designing water into the urban landscape.  PUB was honored at the Global Water Summit in Seville, Spain in March for its program of "Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters" (ABC Waters) which is transforming Singapore’s utilitarian drains, canals and reservoirs into beautiful streams, rivers and lakes for the community to enjoy. “Water sustainability cannot be achieved by increasing the water supply alone – it is just as important that the community see themselves as joint stewards of water" explained CEO Chew Men Leong.  Click for the press release, and congratulations to PUB!

Water-Sensitive Cities.  In a recent TEDx talk, Tony Wong, director of the
Cooperative Research Center (CRC) on Water Sensitive Cities in Australia, lays out a vision for making water more visible and integral to urban living. 

Water Ethics and Agro-ecology

Hope for India's rainfed agriculture.  A new IIED Policy Brief suggests that a little bit of water can go a long way to meeting India's food needs when integrated into small-scale agro-ecological cropping systems designed for resilience.

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems have proven their resilience and can inspire new solutions. This is the theme of
the GIAHS Forum 2013 “Contribution of Agricultural Heritage toward a sustainable world” to be held from 29 May to 1 June in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Prefectural Government.  For more about the concepts and cases, see the latest GIAHS newsletter.

Indigenous Land/Water Sovereignty

The annual UN Indigenous Forum on Indigenous Issues is going on now (20-31 May) in New York.  Though water is not on the agenda per se, it is embedded in many of the background documents.  Several reports deal with mining's impacts on Indigenous Peoples: in Mexico, in Australia, and a global overview Of particular relevance to water ethics is the report on Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Food and Food Sovereignty submitted by the International Indian Treaty Council.

Dayamani Barla, Indian indigenous rights activist, has been selected for Cultural Survival’s Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award.  Click for details, including a 5-min. video of her work in Jharkhand, northern India, protecting the customary land and water rights of local Santhal tribes against incursions by coal mining interests.

News Briefs

> Community Sovereignty over water resources.   Mora County in New Mexico, USA became the first US county to ban fracking and all future oil, gas, or coal extraction. Click for details.

> International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22) focused on water security, with a succinct 13-point message explaining how water is linked to biodiversity.  Since the claim is sometimes made that we don't really need the ecosystems, but just the water that is locked up in those ecosystems, these 13 points provide useful ideas that deserve to be widely disseminated.

> Mexico declares the Yucatan aquifer as a hydro-geological reserve.  The still pristine water of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula will be protected as a special reserve, setting a useful precedent for other endangered groundwater aquifers around the world.

> The Alliance for Water Stewardship is getting good response from businesses about the Beta AWS Standard, released two months ago.
  Click to download the Standard (1.8MB)

> More Large Dams?  According to a Washington Post story, the World Bank is planning more large dams, in effect sacrificing river ecosystems for low-carbon electricity.

> Indigenous Rights can serve as a buffer against Canada's natural resources rush, says Martin Lukacs in a blogpost in the Guardian recently.

To Read

Water Cooperation is the theme of the latest issue of the UN Chronicle with articles highlighting women and agriculture, IWRM, and private sector involvement.

The Message Stick is the Newsletter of the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Here is the current issue (May 2013).

Dormant knowledge is a short research article by Water Ethics Network Intern, Rom Bolliger and others, suggesting the potential for applying Islamic water ethics to motivate more sustainable water behavior in Jordan.

The return of an extinct fish is reported in this New York Times article about Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Water Governance in the 21st Century: Lessons from Water Trading in the U.S. and Australia, by Shiney Varghese, published by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)

Eco-spirituality: towards a values-based economic structure, by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, provides a broad context for water ethics (from the Guardian).

Post Carbon Pathways: Towards a Just and Resilient Post Carbon Future, focuses on energy alternatives, with implicit (unfortunately not explicit) lessons about water.

Special Issue on Water from the Radical History Review, Spring 2013.  The Introduction is available for download; other articles require a subscription. [Thanks to Jeremy Schmidt for this info.]

Responding to the Challenge of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: How can Knowledge Networks Help?  A new report from IIED outlining the challenges facing the 20-30 million artisanal and small-scale miners worldwide, who collectively have a big impact on water quality.

Thank-you to our sponsors!
The Water Ethics Newsletter is an initiative of the Water-Culture Institute and is made possible through a generous grant from the Kalliopeia Foundation

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Recent and Upcoming Events

Native Right to Water
In conjunction with the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals presented a discussion of Native water rights with Cecelia Belone, (Diné) and Native activist/attorney James Zion.   Click for the video podcast, recorded May 23.

Water Integrity Forum  5-7 June 2013, Delft, Netherlands.  Organized by the Water Integrity Forum, UNESCO-IHE, and the Water Governance Centre 
the forum will take stock of progress in addressing corruption in the water sector, share experience, and build alliances.

Nexus 2014 - Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference will be organized on March 3-7, 2014 by The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.  

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will be held in New York, 22-23 Sept. 2014.

Featured Blog Posts

Losing control of ethical oil: Lessons for environmental ethics, a blog post by Jeremy Schmidt, reflects on the Canadian discourse about the ethics of Middle Eastern oil vs. Canadian Tar Sands oil.

Is misusing and mismanaging water a human right?  by Christopher Gasson, publisher of Global Water Intelligence, takes issue with the concept of public management of water systems as a human right.

Copper Breaking Ceremony  This blogpost by Richard Hughes reports on the "copper breaking ceremony" by Hereditary Chief, Beau Dick, of the Namgis First Nation near Vancouver, British Columbia, as an expression of shame for the disrespect of the land and waters from unchecked mining and energy development. 


Is it art?  Water in plastic bags in Chittagong, Bangladesh


New Definitions of Value (7 min.).  Peter Neill suggests we may have to abandon previously valued systems for a sustainable future and suggests that we need not look too far into the past to find a new model for the future, taking a critical look at the sustainable, nature-based value systems of indigenous peoples,


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Last Updated May 2013

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