Evolution of the Human Right to water and sanitation

According to this interpretation, called General Comment No. 15, “Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health”. “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity, being a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights” and “the human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses”. “An adequate supply of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water-related diseases and to meet the needs for consumption, cooking and personal and domestic hygiene.”

Comment number 15 identified three components that should always be guaranteed:

  • Availability implies the existence of a permanent supply from which people can get enough water for personal and domestic use. Uses include consumption, food preparation and personal and domestic hygiene.
  • Accessibility includes both physical access, at a distance from the source not exceeding 250 meters, and economic access; water can not entail the total or partial renunciation of other basic goods and services, such as food or housing.
  • Quality of water must be adequate. Thus, water must be clean and its odour, colour and taste should be acceptable. To protect water quality the existence of adequate sanitation policies is very important.

Just as State responsibilities were identified:

  • To respect the right to water, and refrain from interfering directly or indirectly against the fulfilment of this right. At the same it forces them to guarantee the right to water during armed conflicts, emergency situations and natural disasters.
  • To protect the right to water, preventing third parties, individuals or corporations, from interfering in any way with the right to water. This obligation includes the necessary and effective adoption of a legislation on the matter.
  • To implement the right to water, taking the necessary measures and a legislation on the matter.

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