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
   August 2013
Happy Birthday Dear Network!  This 22nd issue of the Newsletter marks the start of the Water Ethics Network's 3rd year.  The Newsletter is just one form of the Network's engagement in water ethics.  Do you know what else we do?  Click here to find out!

Rethinking Ethical Treatment of Animals...and Rivers

Costa Rica has announced plans to close its zoos because of "a change of environmental conscience among Costa Ricans."   The US government is retiring most of the chimpanzees it has used for medical experiments, thanks largely to the efforts of conservationist Jane Goodall (Click for New York Times article).  Meanwhile a new documentary, Blackfish (click for the trailer) highlights the plight of Orca whales held in the mega-aquarium, Sea World in San Diego, where they are used for entertainment (click for Youtube video of "Shamu Rocks"). Ethics really can and do change!

There is also some rethinking about captive rivers.  The documentary DamNation (click for 3 min. trailer) reports on the growing popularity of dam removal. The movie is scheduled for release in 2014. See the website here.

The Water-Health-Food Nexus
Unclean water and poor access to sanitation could be major factors behind malnutrition, according to new research reported by Bloomberg News. Repeated exposure to pathogens can diminish the effectiveness of the intestines, making it difficult for children to take in nutrients even when they are fed an adequate diet. [from Circle of Blue]

Constitutional Right to Water in Tunisia
Tunisia's new draft constitution is getting high marks for recognizing the human right to water as well as the human right to a healthy environment.  See this article from the Daily Kos blog, and this analysis by Jörg Fedtke at Tulane University Law School).  If these provisions remain intact in the final version, Tunisia will join a small group of countries that give constitutional protection for access to clean water and a healthy environment. 

Big Data and Water Ethics
IBM announced the launch of "Digital Delta", an innovative program using Big Data to transform flood control and the management of the entire Dutch water system (see article from the
Wall Street Journal.  The reason that digital modeling can be so useful, however, is that the Dutch have already thought about the ethical "frame" for their water management, which is no longer conquest of nature but peaceful co-existence by providing enough room for the rivers that the inevitable flood waters will have low-impact places to go.

News Briefs

Rethinking Agriculture
"Regrarianism" is an ecological approach to farming that uses plants to transfer carbon from the air into the soil, mitigating climate change while storing water for plant growth.  What's not to like?  Read an interview with Darren Doherty, who is trying to popularize the concept. In India some similar ideas are being promoted by Navdanya, the organization founded by Vendana Shiva.  She calls the approach "non-violent farming" with local rice varieties cultivated organically, enhancing both biodiversity and farmers' livelihoods

Ethical Water Exchange    

Valérie Issumo, CEO of Prana Sustainable Water company, spoke recently at TEDx-Lausanne 2013 (click to hear the talk) about creating new markets for treated wastewater and using the revenue to finance the treatment plants.  This is what she calls an "ethical water exchange" described in this 1-page overview.

Eco-friendly water infrastructure in Seattle
Seattle, Washington, home of Microsoft and Boeing, is also home to some innovative water infrastructure:  A composting toilet in a large commercial office building, and some clever ways to capture urban storm water (which there is a lot of in Seattle, as it rains a lot).  Take an audio photo tour of Seattle’s water solutions water with water author, Cynthia Barnett, reporting for Orion Magazine.

Interactive website explains UN Watercourses Convention
The UN Watercourses Convention User’s Guide, published in 2012, has been revamped as a website to help practitioners make better use of its potential.

Village-level Water and Sanitation Promoters in India
A new program in Tamil Nadu trains village women to teach WASH to village children, through the schools.  More than teachers, the women become a knowledge resource if villagers have any questions related to sanitation including how to construct a toilet or get individual water pipe connections for their homes.

Big Jump for Living Rivers.  On July 14 at 3:00pm Paris time, between 30 to 50,000 Europeans jumped into their rivers to raise awareness and have fun before heading for their summer holidays.  Organized by European Rivers Network, the event has been held every July since 2005, and is both a reason for, and an expression of, Europe's strong river protection policies. [Thanks to Rafael Ziegler for this info.]

The Water Integrity Forum was held at UNESCO-IHE in Delft, Netherlands June 5-7, co-organized with the Water Integrity Network and the Water Governance Centre.  Click for a
list of presentations to download, and see especially the set of tools for assessing water integrity, "offering a quick and relatively inexpensive way of gaining a picture of the level of integrity in a country’s water sector." 

Hydrology and Society.  The International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) has adopted "Change in hydrology and society" as its research theme for the coming decade.  This certainly bodes well for incorporating ethics into hydrological studies!  [Thanks to Dieter Gerten for this news.]

To Read

Water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda (1.4MB)  A one-page summary of discussions at a July 3 meeting in Geneva, about the prospects for a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water.

Ethics of flood management.  An interview with  Zoran Vojinovic in Asian Development Bank's "Water For All News" about a new approach for managing flood risks in SE Asia.

Call for a Community Rights Movement. Thomas Linzey, founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) calls for local communities to set their own environmental policies to protect land and water from the oil and gas industry. [published July 1, 2013 by]

Legal Rights of Waterways” a webinar recorded June 24
by the POLIS project on water governance.  The webinar features Linda Sheehan (Earth Law Center) and Vernon Tava (High Court of New Zealand) talking about the Whanganui River in New Zealand and the application of "rights of nature" to rivers everywhere. 

The Delaware and the Rights of Rivers blogpost by Liz Marshall (Five Smooth Stones Project) asks some guided questions about whether the Delaware River has rights to its own health. [Thanks to Cynthia Loebig for this link.]

Eradicating Ecocide is the TEDx talk by Polly Higgins where she outlines her initiative to make "ecocide" an internationally recognized crime against peace.  You can visit her website here and download the introductory chapter of her new book, "Earth is Our Business". 

Global Water Governance: Challenges and Future Scope is a collection of invited papers published in Ecology and Society, a peer-reviewed open access journal. The five papers can be downloaded from this link:
"Ethics and Water Governance" by D. Groenfeldt and J. Schmidt. 
"Policymakers’ Reflections on Water Governance Issues" by J. Gupta, A. Akhmouch, W. Cosgrove, Z. Hurwitz, J. Maestu, and O. Ünver
"Comparing Global Coordination Mechanisms on Energy, Environment, and Water" by S. Schubert and J. Gupta
"Missing Links in Global Water Governance: a Processes-Oriented Analysis" by C. Pahl-Wostl, K. Conca, A. Kramer, J. Maestu, and F. Schmidt
"UN–Water and its Role in Global Water Governance" by T. Baumgartner and C. Pahl-Wostl

Closing the Floodgates: How the coal industry is poisoning our water and how we can stop it.  A new report from Waterkeeper Alliance and other US environmental groups. "For too long, the coal industry has polluted our precious waters with impunity [while] state regulators and the EPA have mostly looked the other way."

Participatory groundwater monitoring to enable cooperative ethics, a Powerpoint presentation by Cherukuri RamBabu (India) to the UNECE workshop on adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins, 25-26 June 2013 in Geneva.

Where the Waters Divide: Neoliberalism, White Privilege and Environmental Racism in Canada. by Michale Mascarenhas.  See the review by Margot Francis and listen to an interview with the author here. [Thanks to Jeremey Schmidt for this info.]

The Blue Nile dam controversy in the eyes of international law, by Zeray Yihdego, University of Aberdeen, July 2013, Global Water Forum

Governance of transboundary aquifers: New challenges and new opportunities, by David Brooks, International Institute for Sustainable Development, June 2013, Global Water Forum.

The ethics of being a good water neighbor:  How ‘soft’ power shapes transboundary water interaction, by J. Warner, M. Zeitoun, and N. Miramuchi, June 2013, Global Water Forum.

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 Kalliopeia Foundation

Share your news (and/or views) 
Submit news/views to to be included in the next Newsletter.
Join our Facebook Group

Upcoming Events

9th World General Assembly of the INBO International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) has just been held in Fortaleza, Brazil 13-16 August 2013.  Major themes include 1) Institutional frameworks, 2) Adaptation to climate change, 3) Participation of local stakeholders, 4) Transboundary management, and 5) Financing of basin organizations.

High Level International Conference on Water Cooperation, Dushanabe, Tajikistan, 20-21 August 2013 will "contribute to improvement of water cooperation, in particular in a transboundary level, through advocating the successful policies and best practices, wider public participation, [and] encouragement of policy makers to promote water cooperation at all levels.

"Ministerial Conference on uses of Water for agricultural purposes and Food Crops and Food Security to Address Climate Change and Drought through the International Treaty”  will be hosted by Oman on 21 September 2013.   The focus will be on "conserving indigenous plant genetic resources, their economic value and the knowledge and rich cultural heritage that have been inherited  from generations since ancient times”

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.

Budapest Water Summit, 8-11 October 2013 will highlight "The Role of Water and Sanitation in the Global Sustainable Development Agenda is to take stock of the various developments, in and outside the UN system, in preparing water-related goals for the post Rio+20 development agenda."

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.  

Water Art

Rain Room, an installation at the Museum of Modern Art features rain falling all around, but miraculously, not on you.  Watch the video (5 min.).

Featured Programs

Values Quest, a collaboration between the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the Club of Rome attempts to locate the nature and role of values in contemporary society, and to transform those values to create and maintain a sustainable, equitable and fair global society.  Read the discussion paper

Future Earth "will empower the scientific community to provide knowledge through open and collaborative processes for society to define pathways towards sustainability and respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change."  Among the questions the program will address involves a mention of ethics:  "What lifestyles, ethics and approaches to human well-being in the world are compatible with a transition to global sustainability?"

CEO Water Mandate is inviting suggestions for their program to develop guidelines for corporate water disclosure.  Click here to give your views.

Featured Videos

Ethics of Sand mining (in rivers) from The Water Channel documents how excessive sand mining destabilizes rivers, leads to saline intrusion into freshwater, depletes groundwater tables and adversely affects agriculture.

The Drugs We Wash Away... is a 4-min. video from Ecologic Institute about what happens to pharmaceuticals when then enter urban wastewater.  Produced for the EU-sponsored PHARMAS Project

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth.  This 5-min. trailer summarizes (very briefly!) an interesting new book of essays edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.


forward to a friend 

Water Ethics Network
contact us at
Last Updated August 2013

 unsubscribe from this list | update subscription preferences