Water is everywhere. It's all around us. Clearly, those of us who have access to fresh, clean water don't stop to think about how fortunate we are. We turn on the faucet, and out pours fresh, pure H2O. Sadly, however, this is not how it works for many across the world. Almost one billion people in today's world do not have access to fresh, sanitary water. In fact, more than 3.5 million individuals die each year from water sanitation-related issues, of which approximately 85 percent are children.
Today's water crisis isn't an issue of rarity, but rather it is an issue of access. In a world where more people have access to a cellular phone than a toilet, and as cities and slums grow, the issues of fresh water access is an ever increasing problem. Only 62% of the world's population has access to a sanitation facility that ensures security and cleanliness in local waters. When projects for clean water are undertaken, according to the Blue Planet Run Foundation, almost half of the projects fail due to lack of funding or other means of support. Less than 1% of the sanitation facilities in the world have long-term monitoring to ensure quality water is delivered to the people.
So, clearly, water and sanitation are essential to life. Water and sanitation have been formally recognized as human rights as they are indispensable for the the right to life, the right to health, and the right to dignity. In many countries, the people own the water. The state simply distributes the right to use the water so as to increase social capital. Conventional wisdom has stated that "water flows towards money". This saying perhaps provides hints to the real issue here: countries with weak infrastructures, muddy politics, and deeply rooted corruption often play a part in this fight for clean water. Thus far, seventeen countries have amended their original constitutions to include a right to potable water.
How is restricting access to fresh water a human rights violation? Is it naive to hope that a right will lead to safely flowing faucets and wells in places where (in some locations) free speech can get you killed, where politicians give away state assets foolishly, and where sometimes police even solicit bribes from victims? Would society benefit from giving water to people in the form of property rights (i.e.- giving property rights to the water they already own as citizens)? And even then, are these rights vague or unenforceable? Why or why not?