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
  January 2012
Water Ethics News 

Water Ethics Online!  The Water Ethics Network is online at  Visit the website to access our growing library on water ethics (under the Resources tab), previous issues of Newsletters (e-Newsletter tab), post a profile of yourself or your project (on the Community page) and see what others are doing in the field of water ethics.  The website is still young; please help us grow!  Submit content to the Community page, Send us news for the monthly e-Newsletters, and post comments on the Water Ethics Blog or social media sites.  Click on the website's Get Involved tab for details.   

Water Ethics in Practice 

International Day of Action for Rivers - March 14.  Organized each year by International Rivers, the Day of Action involves hundreds of people around the world who plan their own events to celebrate the world's rivers and the efforts to protect them.  For links to the specific events and background information, click here.  An excellent resource for ideas about river-friendly development strategies is, Beyond Dams: Options and Alternatives, a somewhat dated but still invaluable report issued jointly by International Rivers and American Rivers in 2004.  This report is also available in Chinese.   

Water Ethics at COP-17.  The climate meetings in Durban, South Africa may not have resulted in much agreement on climate responses, but there were some useful inputs about water ethics.  Click to see the video, "Wrong Climate for Damming Rivers" produced by International Rivers and Friends of the Earth, using Google Earth technology.  Also at the meetings, the Indigenous Environment Network issued a Declaration on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples of the World calling for, "Living well with harmony between the peoples and Mother Earth."

Mining and Water Ethics.  A proposed iron mine in the Penokee Range of northwestern Wisconsin (USA) has united environmentalists, Indian tribes, and local citizens in opposition.  The issues are the classic ones that we have become familiar with:  State government collusion with investors to weaken existing mining regulations to allow a mine on public lands, which will devastate local land and water resources, including the water sources for downstream Indigenous communities.  The environmentalist position is outlined in the Sierra Club website.  The position of the Bad River Band of the Anishinaabe Nation is presented here (from a local newspaper).   At a hearing about the proposed mine, held on Jan. 11, 2012, tribal members articulated their opposition to the mine (click here), citing a tapestry of ethical concerns including the mine's impacts on the culturally and nutritionally critical wild rice and fish food base, health concerns from heavy metals, and the spiritual identity of the tribe.  Their words are well worth reading!

Three Ways to Promote a New Ethic.  There are lots of ways to promote a "new" ethic about water, which is often really an old ethic since forgotten (see below).  Environmentalists use a campaign approach (e.g., the Sierra Club's position on the Penokee mine, above) to challenge what they see as unsustainable or unjust resource exploitation. Oxfam's campaign on Oil, Gas and Mining is an example of the same approach at an international scale.  Another approach is through information.  A local initiative, Water's Edge, uses news and information to build a "Virtual Lake Superior Alliance" while also working locally "to protect the waters of the Penokee Hills."  Their mission is line with our own approach here at the Water Ethics Network; we rely on networking to bring more attention to the power of ethics in motivating behavior.  A third approach is through visual or verbal art.  The "Voices of the Penokee Hills" poetry project uses words from local residents and arranges those words into poetry, all with the aim of reflecting back the values of the community about protecting local land and water. 

Revitallizing Indigenous Water Values
.   Winyan Ituwan, the "Vision of the Women" gathering was held on Jan. 15, 2012 in Porcupine, South Dakota (USA) by Oglala Lakota tribal leaders, to "restablish their power" as women leaders and to speak out about environmental justice, including mining, fracking, and water quality.  Click here for an account of the gathering which drew attention to the inter-connectedness between cultural empowerment and the capacity to protect Native waters. 

Water Footprinting.  The basis for the water footprint concept and methodology was developed by Prof. Arjen Hoekstra at UNESCO-IHE and at the University of Twente, the Netherlands.  The Water Footprint Network ( was established to promote the concept and stimulate work on assessment methodologies.  The recently released Water Footprint Assessment Manual (3.3MB) provides details of how to apply the footprint approach.  While not exactly a water ethic, the use of water footprinting implies a concern with water conservation and responsible use.  Ford Motor Company recently announced a target of reducing total water use by 30% by 2015 (click here for details).  The footprint methodology can facilitate measurement of progress towards this goal, and allow rigorous comparisons with other companies using the same footprint methodology. 

Water Ethics Blogger
Kat Taylor, our newest part-time Intern with the Water Ethics Network, has a background in indigenous land and water issues in NW Australia. She served as “Water Facilitator” for the Kimberly Land Council, an Aboriginal Corporation dedicated to “Getting back country, looking after country, and getting control of our future.” Kim is currently spending a year traveling around the United States, and along the way, she will be blogging about land and water issues she encounters. She sends us this report from Northern California: "Two California River Stories."

"The streams of Northern California hide stories. My first impression only took in their charm. This foreign traveler was tempted to assume their character is unchanging. But then, I started to talk to some locals people and learned two contrasting stories... " [Click here to continue reading Kat's blogpost]
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Upcoming Water Conferences

Downstream Neighbor will be held in Denver, Colorado from 27-29 January and blends local and global water issues.  The future of the South Platte Watershed and the competition among agriculture, urban, and environmental demands will be considered through presentations by diverse local experts.  The featured international speakers will be Maude Barlow (Canadian water activist and author of Blue Covenant) and Elisabeth Paredo Beltran (Solon Foundation in Bolivia).  Click here for bios of the presenters, and click here for the program.

Ethics of Water Governance. On March 13th, 2012, the Department of Technology, Policy, and Management of Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) will host a one-day workshop “ethics of water governance.”  Leading scholars in the field of water governance will discuss the topic and develop ideas for outputs such as articles, an edited book or special joiurnal issue.  For further information, contact Neelke Doorn (

Featured Book 
Water, Cultural Diversity, and Global Environmental Change: Emerging Trends, Sustainable Futures?  Edited by: Lisa Hiwasaki, Irene J. Klaver, Ameyali Ramos Castillo, and Veronica Strang.  With contributions from scholars around the world, this book offers valuable insights into how cultural values drive water behaviors and policies.  Click here for book details, to order the book or read it online.  You can download Chapter 1 and the introductory material here.

Featured Organization: 
The French Water Academy (Academie de l'Eau) was established in 1993 as a government-supported non-profit organization.  The Academy has been instrumental in studying and promoting water as a human right (Click here for recent publications, including some in English), as well as the topic of water and cultural diversity a theme closely aligned with water ethics. 

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Last Updated January 2012

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