United States Afraid of Clean Water Becoming a Human Right

Considering that access to clean water is necessary for human survival, it doesn’t seem like a controversial move to declare water a human right. Yet when faced with the prospect of making it international law, why is it that the United States was the one nation to have objections?

November marked the first time every country belonging to the United Nations agreed to make both clean drinking water and sanitation a human right, cementing it as international law. The victory, however, is somewhat marred by the United States’ move to lower the stakes of the proclamation.

Germany and Spain, chief sponsors of the resolution, wrote a detailed explanation of the human rights it hoped to guarantee: “The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use and to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.”

Although every single country was prepared to cosign this declaration, the United States said it would not approve of “the expansive way this right has been articulated.” While the wording of the proclamation seems designed to prevent loopholes around providing adequate sanitation and clean water to people, the United States did not attempt to clarify in what way.

Unfortunately, given the nation’s clout, the United States’ unsubstantiated balk was all it took to convince Germany and Spain to remove the extra language so that it could receive unanimous support. The existing (forgive the pun) watered-down proclamation is certainly a start toward guaranteeing clean drinking water, but lacks the influence it would have carried had the United States not intervened.

Renowned human rights organization Amnesty International is especially critical of this power play. In an official statement, the organization calls on the U.S. government “to explain which of these aspects of the rights it cannot accept and why. It owes this explanation to the world at large, and to Americans, who deserve to know which aspects of their rights to water and sanitation their Federal government refuses to guarantee.” Additionally, Amnesty International points out that, despite being a developed nation, the United States has been previously called out by the United Nations for “not taking adequate steps to ensure quality, affordability, and access to water and sanitation.”

Another reason that the United States might want a less strict definition of clean water as a human right is that water wars are growing – not just internationally, but within the country itself. Experts foresee a growing number of battles for a limited supply of water, and the government may want to preserve its ability to take and allocate water as it chooses.

Fortunately, this one intrusion is not enough to prevent more substantial international laws to be made in the future. The United Nations will continue to meet to strengthen their resolutions on sanitation and clean water and – given the overwhelming international support – it is possible that amendments could be adopted even without the U.S.’s support.


Danielle Savage
Danielle Savage3 years ago

Water is a necessity of life, so therefore a right.

If denied water, one could not continue to exist.

Borg Drone
Past Member 4 years ago


Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

very scary

Tammy Baxter
Tammy B4 years ago

thank you

Valerie R.
Valerie R4 years ago

The priority in the US is always corporate profits, not the people. There is a move to make a commodity out of water; instead of a right to be freely had, there is money to be made in selling it by the gallon. There have been cases of meters being put on home owner's domestic wells.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago

Many great comments. Thanks

Franck R.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you

Ruth Ann W.
Ruth Ann W4 years ago

As progressive as theUS used to be, there are many things we have refused to do that therest of the world does already. Like this, for one

Stanley R.
Stanley R4 years ago

H2O = water Soon we're having H3O when the ozone layer erodes completely. Then we go into meltdown baby.

David Nuttle
David Nuttle4 years ago

Under our new U.S. oligarchy a majority of our elected representatives effectively "sell" their votes to wealthy corporations ... so legislation may be created and sustained to protect the rights of such wealthy elites to increase profits by polluting our air, water, soil, and food. Many of us are now consuming the "crap" that is being dumped. As an example, most foods now contain significant quantities of glyphosate from Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. We are consuming glyphosate in our water and foods in amounts that can cause health problems. Extensive scientific studies, at universities and elsewhere, have proven that glyphosate causes cancer and sterility in lab animals ... and is expected to do the same for humans. Rather than restrict the use of such chemicals, we have members of Congress working to pass the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act" that will allow Monsanto to sell any of its poisons with little or no safety testing or government regulation ...and with legislative guarantees that Monsanto will not ever have to pay damages for any harm caused. We have thus all become lab animals.