Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: December 2017

Chapter 3 - Recognition of the Human Right to Water at the International Level



Safe drinking water is indispensable for human survival. Nevertheless, a human right to water has not been explicitly incorporated in any of the international conventions on human rights. Due to the vital character of this resource, drinking water is an essential element for the realisation of a number of recognised human rights. In fact, some international conventions explicitly refer to drinking water as part of other human rights enshrined in those conventions.

The question that has emerged and been discussed in the last decades is whether access to safe drinking water should be guaranteed as an extension of other rights or whether it should be recognised as an independent right in itself. An independent right to water would provide a more comprehensive protection, and it would support other rights for which water is an essential element. An independent right to water would also protect all people, instead of particular groups, as proposed by the CESCR in General Comment 15.

This chapter focuses on analysing the implicit recognition of the right to water in international human rights conventions, to determine from which rights it derived. The mechanisms for monitoring compliance with the international human rights conventions, reporting procedures and complaints procedures will also be examined. Reports submitted by state parties, particularly concerning the four states under study, on the measures adopted for the implementation of the international human rights conventions can serve to illustrate which rights might incorporate access to drinking water. Compliance procedures are a useful tool to understand which rights are deemed to be violated by lack of access to safe drinking water.


This section focuses on analysing whether the human right to water is recognised in international human rights conventions. On the one hand, the most recent conventions on human rights adopted under the auspices of the UN, with the exception of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance, explicitly mention access to drinking water. On the other hand, interpretations of the rights embedded in the different international human rights conventions, may indicate that the human right to water is implicitly recognised therein.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO