The drinking age starts at zero
According to 2004 figures from theWorld Health Organization, 1.1 billion people around the world live without access to clean drinking water. Millions die every year, mostly children, from waterborne illnesses. Advocacy groups around the world are seeking a United Nations covenant guaranteeing the human right to water.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2002 generated General Comment 15 — the first step toward what advocates hope will be a U.N. covenant declaring water a human right. The comment said, in part, “The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related disease, and provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements.”
General Comment 15 isn’t binding on U.N. members, but a covenant would be. According to theWorldWater Council, “A covenant is an international legal instrument. Thus, when member and non-member states of the United Nations ratify a covenant and become a ‘ state party’ to it, they are willfully accepting a series of legal obligations to uphold the rights and provisions established under the text in question.” That means they have to “ensure the compatibility of their national laws with their international duties, in a spirit of good faith. Through the ratification of human rights treaties, therefore, states become accountable to the international community, to other states which have ratified the same texts, and to their own citizens and others resident in their territories.”
The WWC places those human rights obligations under three headings: respect (“Governments must refrain from unfairly interfering with people’s access to water”), protect (“Governments must protect people from interference with their access to water by others,” including by stopping pollution or price gouging by private providers), and fulfill (Governments must “take all steps with available resources to realize the right to water” by passing and overseeing the enforcement of water-access laws). For more information, see the WHO and WWCWeb sites.