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
   June 2013
New Initiative:
"Water Ethics Charter"

The Water-Culture Institute and the French Water Academy have launched a new initiative to draft a Water Ethics Charter that would be vetted to cities, businesses, and other water-using entities for their endorsement.  The Charter will be presented at the March 2015 World Water Forum in South Korea, and between now and then partner organizations are invited to join the effort to help craft the Charter and build support for the concept.  The list of partners so far includes the Botin Foundation Water Observatory, the Académie de l'éthique, the Club of Rome, and the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).  Click to download the 2-page Concept Note, or visit the webpage.  If your organization might be interested in becoming a partner in this initiative, please contact David Groenfeldt at the Water-Culture Institute. 

The Ethics of Hydropower

Big dams are back, says Julia Pyper in a Climate Wire article, now branded as the low-carbon alternative power supply.  Is this "greenwashing" as a recent International Rivers report contends?  Or should we take the word of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) that they have learned from past mistakes and are now following their new Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol?  Both The Nature Conservancy and WWF have been involved in this process, so even International Rivers is open to the possibility that this is a step forward (see the IR perspective on their website).  One disturbing feature of the new protocol is in addressing the issues of dam-affected Indigenous Peoples.  Whereas the World Commission on Dams report in 2000 called for obtaining their "free, prior and informed consent" as a condition for proceeding with a dam project (language which was later incorporated into the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) the new IHA protocol has relabeled this step as "free, prior and informed participation (emphasis added).  For more on the IHA, see the summary report of their World Congress last month, as reported in the ISSD Reporting Services website.

UNECE Water Convention Goes Global

A workshop in
Buenos Aires June 11-12 on transboundary water cooperation, sponsored by the UN's European Economic Commission (UNECE), explored the relevance of the 1992 UNECE Water Convention to water diplomacy in Latin America. The Convention has helped mediate water cooperation in Europe for the past 20 years, and as of Feb. 2013 is open for non-European countries to ratify as well, hence the relevance to Latin America.  See the presentation by Massimo Cozzone outlining the potential value of the Convention in this region.  Quantifying those values was the theme of another UNECE workshop the previous week (June 6-7) in Amsterdam.

News Briefs

Youth Call for Water Action.   Youth leaders from the Asia Pacific, meeting in Chiang Mai May 13-21, issued a Youth Declaration on water, calling for a more active role in water decisions and reminding adult water leaders about "the right of the future generations to live in a healthy environment..."

Bonn DeclarationThe final statement from the Water in the Anthropocene conference in Bonn, 21-24 May, does not address ethics directly, but does recommend to "Stimulate innovation in water institutions, with a balance of technical- and governance-based solutions and taking heed of value systems and equity."  The conference was organized by the Global Water System Project (GWSP).  See also this Op-Ed article in the New York Times, by GWSP co-chairs, Charles Vorosmarty and Claudia Pahl-Wostl.

Ethics of Ignorance?  Canada says environmental assessments not needed for most tar sand extraction in Alberta (link to blog by Jeremy Schmidt).

Fish Lake update (Canada): Vancouver-based Taseko Mines has changed their plan for a massive open pit gold and copper mine at
Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) in British Columbia.  The new plan calls for the open pit mine to be adjacent to the lake (as before) but instead of converting the lake to a tailings pond, the lake will be preserved (albeit with the edge of the pit just 500m from the lake's shore) and the tailing pond will be constructed 2 km upstream from the lake.  To visualize the plan, see this YouTube video (7 min.) produced by the mining company.  The Tsilhqot'in Nation and their environmental partners are demanding that the New Prosperity Mine be cancelled altogether, for cultural as well as environmental reasons.  More info and links are available on the Cultural Survival website.

Perverse Irrigation Subsidies.  US government subsidies for water-saving irrigation equipment have encouraged farmers to irrigate larger areas thereby using more water overall, causing groundwater levels to fall even faster, according to this New York Times article.

Agreement on the Drin River:  On 28 May 2013 in Tirana, Albania, the five Drin River Riparians held the first Meeting of the Parties to a Memorandum of Understanding on a Shared Strategic Vision for the Sustainable Management of the Drin River Basin.

French minister of housing and land management, Cécile Duflot gave her support to the European Citizen's Initiative to protect the public control of urban water supply services. For details see this Background Note.

To Read

Guide to the Post-2015 agenda.  Are you struggling to keep up with all of the different proposals, views and debates around the Post-2015 development agenda and where water fits into the mix?  This brief guide from IIED will help. 

Water and Energy Nexus case studies from Applied Solutions provide some specifics about how much water is used for what kinds of energy production in the US states of California, Oregon, and Nevada. 
The Indigenous World 2013 is the annual publication from the Indigenous Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).  In 67 articles, scholars and activists provide country reports and updated information on international and regional processes relating to indigenous peoples.

The Mackenzie River Report presents the results of the Rosenburg International Water Forum held last fall in Vancouver to discuss the Mackenzie River Basin and its shared governance among several First Nations, provinces and territories.  (Thanks to Jeremy Schmidt for this info.) 

Voices of Water Professionals: "Shedding Light on Hidden Dynamics in the Water Sector" is the theme of the current Special Issue of the on-line journal, Water Alternatives, in which  prominent water experts were invited to share their personal views about water development.   

Counting Every Drop: The Case for Water-Use Reporting in BC, by Ben Parfitt, is a new report by the University of Victoria's POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The report advocates for a publicly accessible water-use database covering all withdrawals from surface and groundwater sources by major users.

Improving Participatory Water Governance in Accra, Ghana, a policy brief by Leila Harris and Cynthia Morinville, highlights the positive uses of local water boards (LWBs) and “water dialogues” to spark discussion and change in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area.

Fracking and Water Use.  This new report from Ceres points out that not only does fracking use a lot of water, but the practice is concentrated in already water-stressed regions of the western United States.  Download the full report here.

Greening Household Behavior is a new report from OECD describing household environmental attitudes in 11 OECD countries and proposing actions that governments can implement to promote greener choices. The findings indicate that "soft" measures such as labeling and public information campaigns may have a significant role to play.

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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Upcoming Events

International Mine Water Association 2013 conference, Reliable Mine Water Technology in Golden, Colorado, 5-9 August.  This could be an opportunity to introduce the concept of ethics into mine water management.

World Summit on Sustainable Cities. ECOCITY 2013, will be held in Nantes, France from 25 to 27 September 2013. In cooperation with UN-Habitat, UNEP, and the NGO, Ecocity Builders, the Summit will address 4 priority challenges for sustainable cities: financing, governing, thinking and shaping.  See the Program for details.

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.  

Featured River

Two rivers, the Dibru and the Lohit, flow along together and meet a third, the Brahmaputra in the Indian state of Assam. This photo essay (from India Water Portal) reveals the beauty and importance of this vast area which includes Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

Featured Program

The Water Program of the London based Institute for Human Rights and Business promotes corporate responsibility regarding water.  See their position paper, "More than a Resource: Water, Business and Human Rights."

Featured Videos and Films

Water in the Anthropocene
is a 3 min. film from GWSP charting the global impact of humanity on the water cycle.   

Hidden Rivers is a 4 min. fundraising preview from Freshwaters Illustrated, depicting the diversity of life in the rivers of the American Southeast.

Elemental, (4 min. trailer) is a new feature-length documentary featuring the work of Rajendra Singh (India's "Water Man") and Eriel Deranger, a Dené activist fighting Tar Sands development in Alberta.  The film is available for screenings, and on iTunes.

LAST CALL documents the development of the Limits to Growth report commissioned by the Club of Rome in 1972, the reaction it has received since then, and how its alarming predictions are now being realized.  

Featured Project

The Horizon 2020 Initiative is an EU-funded program to de-pollute the Mediterranean by the year 2020 by tackling the major sources of pollution that account for around 80% of the problem: municipal waste, urban waste water and industrial pollution.  Click for a presentation (1.3MB) about the program by Dr. Emad Adly (from a workshop in Cairo, June 3-5, 2013).

Featured Water

Nestlé has launched a "premium brand" of bottled water, called Resource, aimed specifically at stylish, higher income women, according to this New York Times article, in an effort to cash in on the growing market for bottled water in the US.  TV talk show host Stephen Colbert mocks Nestlé's marketing strategy - and ethics - in this video excerpt from the  Colbert Report (June 20).  And in case you haven't seen Annie Leonard's 2010 video about bottled water (8 min.) it is well worth watching too!


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Last Updated June 2013

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