Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Resources on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the US Context

Law profs and others may be looking for resources to support classroom discussions of water issues in Flint, Detroit, California and elsewhere through a human rights lens.  This blog collects some of the material that we've found most useful.  First, for a comprehensive overview of the human right to water and sanitation, check out The Human Right to Water by Inga Winkler.   It's an authoritative work that is a valuable reference in this area.   For more general background materials, see the website of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation.  This website also includes some US-specific materials, since the prior Rapporteur completed a mission to the US in 2011.  The report from that US mission is available here

Most US-related materials do not adopt a human rights perspective, but can be used to lay the groundwork for a human rights-related discussion.  For example, Sharmila Murthy's forthcoming article on Detroit's water shutoffs does not take a human rights approach, but argues that water should be deemed a constitutive commitment on the order of a constitutionally protected right. Jon Monger's Note on the Kennedy v. Zanesville case tells the dramatic story of that case while also demonstrating the limits of a civil rights approach to water access.

Several law school clinics have recently produced significant work on human rights at water that may be useful.  In the wake of California's human right to water law, the Berkeley Clinic produced The Human Right to Water Bill in California: An Implementation Framework for State Agencies, with ideas about how to operationalize this right.  The Georgetown Human Rights Institute published Tapped Out: Threats to the Human Right to Water in Urban United States.  Clinics also took the lead in requesting a hearing on water rights in the US before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, held in 2015. The Santa Clara Human Rights Clinic's submission to the IACHR is here.

Finally, ESCR-Net filed an amicus brief in Detroit arguing that the court considering a challenge to water terminations should take human rights into consideration.  That brief, which brings together relevant international law and applies it in a US context, is available here.

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