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Water Water Everywhere

Is water a human right?

Here’s what the UN says.

YOU MAY HAVE spotted a petition that calls for the abolition of water charges on the basis that access to water is a human right.

The petition has received 36,000 online signatures to date and a march through Dublin today is expected to attract as many as 15,000 people.

The campaign says that it is based on a UN resolution that declares access to water a human right.

Indeed, UN Resolution 64/292, signed in July 2010 does say that “The United Nations Recognises the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”.

However, the UN in no way prohibits the charging for water, but does say that ability to pay should not limit access.


A section in the resolution says:

Paying for water and sanitation services must not limit one´s capacity to pay for other essential goods or services, such as food, housing, education or medicines. Affordability of water and sanitation services as well as associated hygiene must ensure people are not forced to resort to other, unsafe alternatives. The human rights to water and sanitation do not call for services to be free of charge. Services must however be affordable for all, which automatically includes the need to develop tariff systems and subsidies.

The resolution adds that paying for water should not account for more than 3% of the average household income, or around €1,000 in Ireland.

Where some Irish people may have a case is under the heading of quality under the same resolution.

It says:

“Water must be safe for human consumption and for personal and domestic hygiene. It must be free from microorganisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person´s health.”

Read: People queued up to burn their Irish Water packs in a bath tub last night

Opinion: Communities are reaching boiling point over unfair water charges

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