Monthly Archives: December 2015

Finally Distinguished: The Human Right to Sanitation

As recognized by international law, the human right to an adequate standard of living contains quite a few components, each noted as distinct human rights. You have the rights to be healthy, obtain food and find shelter, for example. You also have the right to access clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, which are related to the human rights above, among others.

Since the UN adopted “the human right to water and sanitation” in 2010, the two things have been conflated as one right in various texts and references. For years, however, experts have been noting that the two, while obviously related, are separate and complex in their own rights, so to speak, and should be referred to as such.

Now, for the first time, the United Nations has clarified that the human rights to water and sanitation are two separate rights, each with their own characteristics.

Why is this an important distinction? As countries strive to meet obligations established in the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, their understanding of what it will take to improve sanitation and end open defecation will be crucial. So it’s important to emphasize sanitation, which doesn’t always involve water.

Read more:

UN recognises right to sanitation as a distinct human right –

Dispatches: UN resolution enshrines rights to clean drinking water, sanitation – Human Rights Watch

United Nations General Assembly affirms that water and sanitation are distinct rights and confirms a strong definition of these rights – Joint press release from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and WASH United

Related posts:

17 Sustainable Development Goals Adopted at the United Nations

World Water Day: UN World Water Development Report Warns of Global Crisis by 2030

If You Could Advise the UN on Water, What Would You Say?

Water’s Place Among Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

The Intersection of Environmental Issues and Human Rights

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Filed under Human Right(s) to Water and Sanitation, Human rights, Law, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), United Nations, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Study Finds We Vastly Underestimate Water Management’s Depletion of Freshwater


Here’s a frightening word of the day: “evapotranspiration.” It simply refers to water lost to the atmosphere by evaporation, or after being consumed and released into the air by plant life. It wasn’t so ominous last week, but it is this week because a new study in the journal Science puts it in a new context: unsustainable human use of freshwater.

Essentially, the study finds human have used 18 percent more of the planet’s freshwater than we previously thought, because we’ve underestimated the impact of our water-management systems, such as irrigation, dams and reservoirs. They cause more water to be lost to the atmosphere than would occur naturally, effecting precipitation patterns. Gather a lot of water in one place, like a reservoir, for instance, and more of it evaporates across the greater surface area exposed to air. The researchers studied the ratio of evapotranspiration to precipitation between 1901 and 2008, finding a significant increase in the latter half of the time period.

The additional 18 percent tips our water use into the unsustainable category given the increasing human population, the researchers warn. As Chelsea Harvey writes in her article about the study in The Washington Post, “The study highlights a critical need for better monitoring of our freshwater use and the ways our management techniques can affect the water cycle, as [study co-author Fernando] Jaramillo noted that the current effects of human water management ‘are even larger and more recognizable than the effects of atmospheric climate change.’”

Read more:

Alarming research finds humans are using up far more of Earth’s water than previously thought – The Washington Post

Local flow regulation and irrigation raise global human water consumption and footprint – Science

Related posts:

World Water Day: UN World Water Development Report Warns of Global Crisis by 2030

At the Point of ‘Peak Water,’ Our Foreseeable Future Grows Shorter

Mapping the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries

Serious Water Conservation Demands Layered Approach and Emotional Commitment

Over-Salted: The Trouble(s) With Desalination

Study: Freshwater Shortage Will Double Climate Change’s Impact on Agriculture

Unchecked Emissions Will Drain Water Resources, Warns Leaked U.N. Report

Study Describes Vast Reserves of Water Under Ocean Floors

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Filed under Agriculture, Climate Change, Conservation, Dams and Hydropower, Drought, Environment, Groundwater, Rivers and Watersheds, Science, Sustainability, Water Resources, Water Shortage