August 15, 2011

Water Ethics News

Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the first monthly issue of the Water Ethics Network Newsletter. Here we present updates from Network members as well as news about current issues dealing with ethical dimensions of water policies and practices. The Network's purpose is to raise awareness about ethical dimensions of water, promote collaboration among the members, enhance understanding, and promote the practical application of ethical concepts and perspectives. The Network is an initiative of the Water-Culture Institute ( in partnership with the individuals and organizations listed in the sidebar below. Anyone is welcome to subscribe to the Newsletter, and to submit news for upcoming newsletters to dgroenfeldt[at]

News from Members

Ethics Session at World Water Week

A Side Event on "History, Ethics, Religious Values: Contributions to Water and Food Security" will be held on 22 August at World Water Week in Stockholm. Jointly sponsored by the Global Water System Project (GWSP), UNESCO-IHP, and Fundacion Botin, the session has the distinction of being the only hit for the word, "ethics" or "ethic" in the entire Water Week program! If you are one of the lucky ones to be in Stockholm for this event, please attend and encourage others to join you. We have a big task to popularize ethics as an essential perspective for understanding and improving water policies. Click to download the announcement of the Side Event (PDF, 420 KB). A GWSP background report on Water Secutiry: Challenges for Science and Policy, (PDF, 1.1 MB) is also available.

A Water Ethic for Florida
A Water Ethic for Florida (click for details and free download) by journalist Cynthia Barnett, is the first in a series of reports for the Collins Center’s Our Florida Our Future initiative. Barnett is the author of Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. (University of Michigan Press, 2007) and Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis (Beacon Press, coming in September 2011).

Sustainable Water Management in a Globalized World
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research and the Institute for Social and Development Studies at the University of Munich are undertaking a project entitled, Sustainable Water Management in a Globalized World, with an emphais on ethical frameworks. The project sponsored a conference on water management options in June 2011, and the proceedings, edited by Martin Kowarsch, were released in July (click to download the conference proceedings, PDF, 9MB). As part of this project, a case study on water ethics in South Sudan will be pursued by a PhD student, Julia Ismar (click for research outline).

New UNESCO Report on Water Ethics
Water Ethics and Water Resource Management, is a report of Ethics and Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific (ECCAP) Project Working Group 14 and is available on for free at: The report systematically discusses how water ethics can make a difference to water related practices and provides a cross-cultural review of the issues. The report reveals gaps in existing knowledge to researchers, policy makers and funders of research, which could be used to examine linkages between research and policy making, and presents areas of policy options to governments.

Mega-Dairies and Water Ethics in Illinois
Eric Landen of Landen Consulting is finlizing a report on the economic, social, and environmental costs of CAFOs (Concentrated Agrcultural Feed Operations in northern Illionois. Along with the economic and social implications are environmental impacts in the form of surface and groundwater pollution. See his blogpost on Environmental Identity, Unsustainable Agriculture, and Nature's Botton-Line.

Religion and Environmental Change
A new book, Religion and Dangerous Environmental Change: Transdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Sigurd Bergmann and Dieter Gerten explores religious as well as ethical perspectives on climate change. The book is available from the publisher, and can also be browsed through Google Books at this link.

Are You Working on Water Ethics Issues?
Please share your news with interested colleagues. Submit a brief description with a link to the details to info[at] Submit before 12 September for the September Newsletter.

Featured Programs on Water Ethics

Sweden Textile Water Initiative started in 2010 as a joint project between 23 textile and leather retail companies in Sweden together with Stockholm International Water Institute.
It is a learning process around water issues in the supply chains of textile and leather retailers with the aim of producing guidelines for sustainable water management, from thread and leather to product. During an initial two year process, the STWI companies will form working groups on topics such as production technique, choice of raw material, water treatment, sludge management, and policy engagement, which will serve as platforms for a learning process and the development of guidelines for sustainable water use.
 More Info:

Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) strives to promote the preservation, responsible management and the equitable distribution of water for all, based on the understanding that water is a gift of God and a fundamental human right. Click for their latest newsletter.

River Life Program, University of Minnesota. Our programs are grounded in a fundamental belief that future river leaders must have knowledge and awareness in three broad areas—river science, river policy and planning, and expressions of river significance—in order to meet the challenges of the future. Beginning in September program coordinator Pat Nunnally will teach an Honors Seminar “Living With the Mississippi,” which will ask students to consider the myriad policy, scientific, and cultural threads involved in living “with” a river rather than “on” it. The River Life web site is at We are also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@RiverLifeUMN).


What is a water ethic? How can we know when ethics are motivating water policies and how can we identify what those ethics are? Or evaluate whether the ethics are desirable or not or something in-between? What can we do to promote consideration of alternatives?
The Water Ethics Network is intended to promote the study of ethics in relation to water, and water in relation to ethics, and to expand the frame of analysis. The “right to water” is an ethical issue, but so are the rights of water (rights of nature) as well as the rights of communities to ecologically healthy lakes and rivers. And it is not just about the environment. Social justice and economic opportunity are also valued as aspects of human rights and need to be factored into any sustainable water equation.
The central premise of the Water Ethics Network is that ethical values and assumptions play powerful roles in motivating particular water policies and practices. The more we can learn about those dynamics, the better for arriving at sustainable and equitable solutions to the never-ending challenges of water management. We can all benefit from a diversity of considered views, and from learning about who is doing what. Please add your voice to the chorus, and we look forward to some beautiful if complex music as the Water Ethics Network evolves.
Special thanks to all who contributed news and ideas to this first issue of the Newsletter, and to Katey Blumenthal, our dedicated volunteer Intern, for her indispensible help in setting up this blog.
- David Groenfeldt, Editor and Network Coordinator