New Internationalist

The Source

Issue 354

Perhaps in the thousand ages of divine-like patience, even this rock of mindlessness will be dented by the regular dripping of roof water. - Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah.

Some principles of water justice

  • Water is essential for the entire biosphere, not just humans.
  • Water is nature's gift and cannot be owned and turned into a commodity.
  • Water is exhaustible. It is our duty to conserve and use it sustainably. No-one has a right to pollute it.
  • Water is a human right. We need to work to guarantee a free basic provision of safe water for all.
  • Efficient water management starts from the point of view of the most disadvantaged - impoverished women in particular, who often bear the burden of fetching water.
  • Democratic local community participation can ensure sustainable use and equitable distribution.

Happening this month

  • 22 March is World Water Day; 2003 is the International Year of Freshwater.
  • The second UN Clean Water Decade begins this month. The previous one (in the 1980s) failed due to the purse-pinching of donor countries and the anti-poor economic agenda pushed by Reagan and Thatcher.
  • 16-23 March, the Third World Water Forum takes place in Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan. The previous Forum (held in The Hague, March 2000), dominated by corporate lobby groups, gained notoriety for pushing the privatization agenda under a cloud of development rhetoric.

Useful non-governmental organizations


Water for Survival
PO Box 6208, Wellesley Street, Auckland.
Tel: 09 528 9759 Fax: 09 528 9752
Email: [email protected]


The Water Matters Campaign co-ordinated by TEAR Australia lobbies for safe water provision worldwide.
PO Box 164 (1/4 Solwood Lane), Blackburn VIC 3130.
Tel: (03) 9877 7444 or Toll Free: 1800 244 986
Fax: (03) 9877 7944
Email: [email protected]

Oz GREEN involves communities to care for rivers


WaterAid Prince Consort House, 27 - 29 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UB.
Tel: 020 7793 4500 Fax: 020 7793 4545
Email: [email protected]
Look out also for WaterAid and Tearfund's forthcoming report on sanitation, 'The Human Waste'.


321 Chapel Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 7Z2.
Tel: (613) 230-5182 or 1-800-370-5658
Fax: (613) 230-0712
Email: [email protected]


Oxfam works on a wide variety of projects but has a track record of securing safe water for communities in distress.

United Nations

Various UN agencies provide invaluable information on the state of water resources and promote safe water and sanitation initiatives. However, be wary of the 'public private partnerships' lurking within. In November 2002, UNESCO announced the signing of a co-operation agreement with the transnational water giant Suez. Recent declarations from Suez put the emphasis on public service not the profit potential - just who are they trying to fool?

Home of the World Water Assessment Programme, pooling the resources of 23 UN agencies. See below to access the Programme's comprehensive World Water Development Report presented at Kyoto in March 2003.

Executive Summary of the World Water Development Report.

The site for the International Year of Freshwater 2003.

Statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme.

The World Health Organization's health and sanitation database.


Australian Right to Water campaign.

US civil-rights group Public Citizen.

Visit the Blue Planet Project on the Council of Canadians' site, which aims to co-ordinate international anti-privatization efforts - with extensive links.

Friends of the Earth International.

Digs the dirt on water transnationals.

Read the cogent report 'The Great Water Robbery' here.

Check out Operation Water Lords at the Canadian Polaris Institute's site.

A report on the The First People's World Water Forum

Two recent books worth reading: the impressively researched Blue Gold: The battle against corporate theft of the world's water by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke (Earthscan 2002) and the more polemical Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit by Vandana Shiva (Pluto Press 2002).

Big Dams

A wealth of research from the World Commission on Dams.
The best campaigning site on the subject, courtesy of the Berkeley-based International Rivers Network.


The Australian Conservation Foundation presses for better local water management. Useful US site that covers a multiplicity of issues. Canadian Government-funded initiative to look at ways of reducing water demand in regions of scarcity. The Japanese group People for Rainwater Utilization with outreach in Bangladesh. A multitude of stories and strategies from India. Industry initiative concentrating on water quality in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Some useful general sites Overview of current debates by the US Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

www.thewaterpage.comWith an emphasis on sustainable development. Data culled from Peter Gleick's authoritative biannual reports on the world's freshwater.

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This article was originally published in issue 354

New Internationalist Magazine issue 354
Issue 354

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New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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