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The Human Right to Water: A Research Guide & Annotated Bibliography
30.1 Georgetown Environmental Law Review (GELR), Forthcoming (2017)
  • Jootaek Lee
Countries, small and large, developed, or developing, all have issues relating to water in terms of quality, quantity, and access. These issues need imminent and efficient solutions because of the critical importance of water to human health, life, and dignity; A lack of water can lead to death from dehydration, as well as other serious diseases and risks. Women, children, minority groups, indigenous peoples, refugees, and prisoners are most vulnerable to water problems. 

The goal 7.C of the Millennium Development goals (“MDGs”) based on the United Nations Millennium Declaration (“Millennium Declaration”) set a target to reduce by half the portion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. The goal, however, could not be fully reached due to the various reasons, including physical water scarcity, the failure of institutions, lack of infrastructure, poverty, and rapid growth of population. 

A wide variety of solutions to solve the issues and problems relating to water have been suggested by international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and human rights activists as well as national governments. The solutions were provided in order to address the matters directly or indirectly originated from various roots, such as poverty, inequality, and political, social, cultural, and environmental challenges. In addition, one of the most promising approaches to solve the water issues is to legally recognize access to water as a human right. 

Researching right to water issues involves a wide variety of documents produced by various entities, including inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and states. Research is made more difficult by the complex reasons and motivations behind the right to water, the difficulty of defining water and the right to water, the diversity of stakeholders involved — including indigenous people and minority groups — the complicated and interdisciplinary nature of research — including data, statistics, strategies, and implementation plans — many different types of legal sources to search — including international treaties, custom, general principles of law, jurisprudence, soft law, and domestic statutes. The research is a mixture of international and domestic legal research and non-legal research. 

In order to ease away the difficulty of researching right to water, this article first investigates various definitions of water and right to water and identifies the difficulties of this research. Next, this article delineates the history of laws relating to water and various mechanisms and international principles that can be useful for protecting the rights of indigenous and local people. Finally, the article selectively reviews several books and articles that provide excellent starting points for right to water research.
  • Water,
  • Right to Water,
  • Human Rights,
  • Human Right to Water,
  • International Law,
  • Water Grabbing,
  • Access,
  • Quantity,
  • Quality,
  • Safe Drinking Water,
  • Sanitation,
  • Economic,
  • Social and Cultural Rights,
  • CESCR,
  • UDHR,
  • ICCPR,
  • WHO,
  • UN,
  • FAO
Publication Date
Spring March 1, 2017
Citation Information
Jootaek Lee. "The Human Right to Water: A Research Guide & Annotated Bibliography" 30.1 Georgetown Environmental Law Review (GELR), Forthcoming (2017)
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