"Exploring the Ethics of Water Decisions"
Water Ethics Newsletter
May 2015

Ethics at the World Water Forum

Two sessions on Water Ethics plus an exhibit were organized by Water-Culture Institute and UNESCO-IHP at the World Water Forum in Korea last month:  Mainstreaming a New Water Ethic (Thematic Session 4.4.5), and a discussion session and exhibit (click for photos) at the Citizen's Forum.  Several sessions on Indigenous Peoples' water issues also gave prominence to values and ethics (Click for a summary).  And of course one could find ethics reflected in every session at the Forum if one looked carefully!

Bottled Water in California

Does the water bottling industry become less ethical during a drought?  That's what many Californians believe according to this article from The Guardian.  They have signed a petition demanding that Nestle "... stop bottling water from California immediately", prompting this rebuttal from Nestle.  Environmental and social advocates have long pointed out the dark side of bottled water, while saying little about the ethics of the much bigger elephant in the watershed: Agriculture. Perhaps both sectors are overdue for some ethical rethinking!

Youth to the Rescue?

Youth can be an integral partner in managing water issues as evidenced in SADC Water Week in Maseru, Lesotho from 21-23 April, 2015 where some 30 youth participated.  They were identified through a 2 month "youth scoping study" carried out by the Lesotho Water Partnership. 

Youth organizations played a vital role at the World Water Forum in Korea last month, providing both ideas and enthusiasm, and to some extent substituting for the meager participation of social and environmental justice groups.  See this summary of youth activities at the Forum on the Water Youth Network website.  The Asia Pacific Youth Parliament for Water (APYP) issued a declaration about environmental priorities, while the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) made a separate declaration on education and awareness-raising.

News Briefs

A Water Charter for Berlin.  The Berliner Wassertisch (Water Assembly) has drawn up a draft water charter for Berlin, based on the Naples Manifesto which calls for the re-municipalization of water supply services.

Threatened Lake of the Year 2015, an annual designation conferred by Global Nature Fund, is Lake Hovsgol in Northern Mongolia. Though located inside a national park, the lake is threatened by unchecked tourism development and resulting pollution.

Pesticide Threat to Water Ecosystems.  A new study of global agricultural surface waters revealed insecticide concentration exceeding regulatory threshold levels in > 40% of the samples.  Click for the full article (from Proceedings of the National Academy of Science).

Blogs and Short Articles

At 7th World Water Forum, civil society organizations “co-opted” into the fold,
April 30 blogpost from Ecumenical Water Network, comments on the Forum.

Towards a Water Ethics Manifesto, guest blog by Lucy Rodina, for the Praxis Center of Kalamazoo College, discussed the Water Ethics Charter.

Ethics and Altruisim, by Peter Singer, from the World Economic Forum blog, unpacks the concept of altruism.

Mekong River Dams - Harnessing the River or Killing It?  National Geographic article from the current issue.

A Re-think of Big Dams in India?  This report by Keith Schneider (Circle of Blue) suggests a dramatic change of policy that could result in fewer, and smaller, new dams.

Mighty Rio Grande Now a Trickle Under Siege. This New York Times article  highlights the plight of farmers but is silent on the plight of Nature.

Reports and Journal Articles

Proceedings of the 3rd Arab Water Forum (6.4MB) reports on the December 2014 event which included a session on "Making Water Ethics Relevant to Water Management" (pp 43-44).

Rethinking Sustainability, Scaling Up, and Enabling Environment: A Framework for Their Implementation in Drinking Water Supply, Amjad, U.Q. et al. Water, 7(4), 1497-1514, 2015

Participation in flood risk management and the potential of citizen observatories: A governance analysis,
Wehn, U.  et al.  Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 48, April 2015, Pages 225–236.

Stakeholder Engagement for Inclusive Water Governance (5MB), an important new report from OECD's Water Governance Initiative.

Transboundary Water Management in a Context of Climate Change,  [Also available in French], Proceedings of a conference held in May 2014 at Laval University in Quebec.  

Our public water future: The global experience with remunicipalisation, Edited by S. Kishimoto, E. Lobina, and O. Petitjean, from Transnational Institute. See also TNI's program on water justice.

Post 2015 Development Process: Water,  a Briefing Note from International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and Tebtebba on Indigenous Peoples' rights to water.

Water and Climate Change Adaptation in Transboundary Basins: Lessons Learned and Good Practices, a new report from UNECE & INBO.

Water and Cities: Ensuring Sustainable Futures (2.6MB), a report from OECD exploring water-risk exposure, urban infrastructures, and institutional architectures.

Water for Food Security and Nutrition (4.3MB), a new report from the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the UN Committee on World Food Security, released on May 15 at FAO-Rome.

A Monitoring Tool for Resilience, Working Paper from the CGIAR program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.  

Property and the Right to Water: Toward a Non-Liberal Commons, by J. Schmidt and K.R. Mitchell,  Review of Radical Political Economics, 46(1): 54–69, 2014.

Follow-up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,  Summary Report from IISD Reporting Services on a high level meeting held on 12-13 May in New York, which will have implications for monitoring the new SDG on water.  More about the meeting.

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

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Featured Initiative

Connect the Drops, a new initiative from Ceres aims to mobilize California businesses, local governments and individuals, to take action on water stewardship. 


Aaron Wolf of Oregon State University has been awarded the 20th Heinz Award for Public Policy for his leadership in the practice of water diplomacy.

The first annual North American River Prize has been awarded to The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper by the Australian-based International River Foundation.  Once declared biologically dead, the Buffalo River is on a path to recovery.

Urban Water - Innovations for Environmental Sustainability a free on-line course taught by Karen Bakker, geography professor at Univ. of British Columbia.  

Upcoming Events

Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization, June 4–7, 2015, Pomona College, Claremont, California.

Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainable Water Practices
June 9-10, Chandler, Arizona, organized by University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center.

Global Conference - 10th Edition July 6-8 in Domaine de Chantilly, France, under the patronage of President François Hollande, will discuss new ideas about a sustainable future.

Sustainable Development Goals: A water perspective, 17-18 August 2015, Bonn, Germany, sponsored by The Global Water System Project (GWSP), will consider "Indicators, Interlinkages and Implementation" of the new water goal.

Recent Events

Water after Borders: Global Stakes, Local Politics, April 23-24, 2015 at the University of Illinois - Chicago.  This conference considered the Great Lakes and other transboundary water systems in terms of the social and political dimensions of water management.

The Ethics of Nature – The Nature of Ethics, May 16 at the University of Manchester, UK featured an interesting set of presentations.

Featured Videos

Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute, Recounts how the Paiutes lost not only most of their customary lands, but their water as well.  (3 min. trailer).

Divide in Concord, from Bullfrog films:  An elderly activist spearheads a grassroots campaign to ban the sale of bottled water in Concord, MA (3 min. trailer)

Dear Future Generations:  Sorry!  New video by rap artist, Prince Ea (6 min.)

Dare to Drink?  Emerging Pollutants in Our Water shows innovative technologies to deal with emerging pollutants (4 min.).

Indigenous Message on Water, an inspiring message from Darlene Sanderson (Cree/Russian) Coordinator of Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace.

North American River Prize Finalists (14 min.) from International River Foundation, gives an overview of the four finalists.

Featured Infographic

The Unfiltered Truth About Water from Evergreen Environmental Services, highlights the role water plays in our everyday lives. [Thanks to Mike Meece for this]

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Last Updated May 2015

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