November 18, 2011

Water Ethics News

Launch of the Water Ethics Website
Our new central cyber-hub for the Water Ethics Network is up and running at Visit the site to connect to other Network members and to stay up to date on water ethics happenings worldwide.
> In the Community page you can post a brief profile and include the projects and organizations in which you are involved (as long as they’re somehow related to water ethics!).
> Click on the “Get Involved” tab to link to our social media sites: our Facebook page, Linked-in group, and Twitter (@H2OEthics).
> There is a separate page for the e-Newsletter where you can see past issues, subscribe for email delivery, and (please take note!) submit news and information for the next issue.
> The other tab we would urge you to click is labeled “Donate to the Network.” Please help us keep this network going by contributing any amount. Not only will this help us immediately; it will also help us demonstrate to potential sponsors that our services are valued. Thank you!
- Katey Blumenthal, Water Ethics
Intern and Webmaster

The Other "WTO" - World Toilet Organization
November 19 is World Toilet Day organized by the World Toilet Organization, whose mission is “Improving sanitation conditions for people globally through powerful advocacy, inventive technology, education and building marketplace opportunities locally.” Access to basic sanitation is included in the UN-recognized “Human Right to Water and Sanitation” but the “sanitation” part is often omitted in both thought and action. Sanitation and water are inextricably inter-twined: water is used for sanitation, and the way sanitation is done, or not done, has a big effect on water quality. Visit the World Toilet Day website for more information about how the day is being observed around the world, or download the World Toilet Day Toolkit (3MB).

Adopt a Water Ethic!
Feeling frustrated that the world hasn't adopted the water ethic you know we need for a sustainable future? Consider developing your own water ethic and adopting it as your own personal code. The process of writing it down will be rewarding, as well as humbling. There's a lot to consider. Here are two water ethics to get you started:
> Mike Barerra's Water Ethic. A Baptist minister living along the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas, Mike is passionate about safeguarding the future of the river. He serves as chairman of the Rio Grande Regional Advisory Council which networks among existing groups to develop a basin-wide river ethic. He keeps a running list of water ethics principles; click here for the current version.
> Maude Barlow's Water Ethic. In her 2001 book, Blue Gold, writer and activist Maude Barlow suggests Ten Principles for protecting water. Click here for the complete list.

Ecumenical Water Network Develops New Strategy
The World Council of Churches launched the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) in 2006 with a mandate to report back to the Council’s 2013 World Assembly to be held in Busan, Korea. That time is getting closer and the Ecumenical Water Network has just developed a new action plan so they will have something interesting to report. For details of their current activities and future plans, see the EWN website. What kind of work does EWN do? Sometimes it gets political. In the words of Dr. Rommel F. Linatoc, a representative of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, political action has be part of the mix: “For us, water is an issue of human rights and dignity. Once that dignity and human right is eradicated from each individual then it become a political issue that some of our churches don’t want to be involved. However, I think water is a political matter that needs to be addressed politically.” (Click here for more…)

What's the Value of Ecosystem Services?
Everyone agrees that ecosystems provide valuable services, but just how valuable are they? Eric Landen (Landen Consulting) has put together a briefing note about valuing the coral reef and mangrove ecosystems in Belize. When a ship ran aground and damaged a 6,000 square meter swath of coral, the Belize Supreme Court awarded damages equivalent to US$5,000 per square meter. It helped that the country had recently completed an economic valuation of the reef’s ecosystem services, and this served as one basis for awarding compensation to the government. Click here to view/download the one-page briefing document.

Measuring Water (and ethics?) with Aqua Gauge
Aqua Gauge is a flexible Excel-based tool that allows investors to scorecard a company's water management activities against detailed definitions of leading practice. It has been developed by Ceres, a non-profit organization working with investors to nudge major corporations towards environmental sustainability. Aqua gauge measures not only the water footprint, but also includes dimensions of governance and management, stakeholder engagement and disclosure. The tool can be used for assessing corporate water risk management and also gives companies a resource to inform and strengthen their water management strategies. For details, click here.

Mother Earth Water Walk
In a demonstration of respect for the sacred Great Lakes, a group of Native American grandmothers walked around parts of the lakes between 2002 and 2009. This year they invited other Native Americans to join them from the far North, the Pacific West, the Atlantic East, and the South. They congregated in June in the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation of Northern Wisconsin. For a news account of the Water Walk, click here. The spirit of the Water Walkers is effectively communicated in a video interview with First Nations Grandmother, Josephine Mandamin which is in three segments, each 5 to 10 minutes: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. For more about the 2011 Water Walk as well as the earlier walks, visit and take some time to explore this rich website.

The Art of Water
Jeff Rich is a photographer with a keen eye for watershed, rivers, and people. His "Survey of the French Broad River Basin" in North Carolina documents a once horribly polluted river which was cleaned up following the Clean Water Act, but now once again is becoming more polluted. Click here for a narrated short video of the images.
School children living the Europe's Danube Basin were invited to submit art work depicting something about the river. The works of art can be seen here.

Reports and Articles

"History, Ethics, and Religious Values: Contributions to Water and Food Security" was a side session at World Water Week in Stockholm this past August, organized by Global Water System Project (GWSP), the Botin Foundation Water Observatory, and UNESCO. The presentations can be viewed or downloaded here (link to World Water Week site). [Thanks to Janos Bogardi for this link.]

An article about the Jordan River appears in the current issue of Orion Magazine, under the title of "Holy Water: A Precious Commodity in a Region of Conflict." Click here to view the article. [Thanks for Jeremy Schmidt for suggesting this.]

"Renewing a Naxi environmental ethic in Lijiang, China: an approach for water management," by Elizabeth Voeller appears in the September 2011 issue of the journal, Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management. Click here for the article. [The author writes that she is not currently involved in water ethics reseach but hopes to return to this topic eventually.]

Upcoming Water Conferences

Water, Energy and Food Nexus. The Bonn "Nexus Conference" is going on now (16-18 Nov.) serving as preparation for Rio+20 (see below). The conference website includes a wealth of background papers and major presentations, but the topic of ethics barely appears. (There is one mention in the paper on Corporate Water Stewardship, and perhaps no mentions anywhere else.) If you can find "ethics" in the conference, please let us know!
The 6th World Water Forum (WWF-6) will be held in Marseille, France from 12-17 March 2012. Water ethics will be a theme within a session on an “Ethical and Cultural Initiative for Water” being organized by the Grassroots and Citizenship Process Commission of the Forum Secretariat. In addition to participating in this theme, the Water Ethics Network is also working with Indigenous Peoples' groups to help bring stronger representation of indigenous voices to the Water Forum. To learn more about the planning, or to offer help or suggestions, contact David Groenfeldt, Water Ethics Network Coordinator at:

Rio+20. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will be held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil from 20-22 June 2012. Water will be an important part of the agenda, along with ethics. We are looking for opportunities to bring ethics into the water discussions at the Conference. If you have any ideas, or would like to be involved in some way, please contact David Groenfeldt at

Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace. ‘Culture is the root of the tree of sustainable development,’ observed the late Te Tika Mataiapo (Cook Islands). The Indigenous World Forum, planned for late 2012 or early 2013, will give voice to the Indigenous perspective of guardianship of all sources of water. In this view our relationship to water is expressed as a sacred responsibility through the practice of cultural traditions. The Forum will seek to establish mechanisms for active and meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples in all water policy decisions. Click here for more details about the Forum concept.

Are You Working on Water Ethics Issues?
Please share your news with interested colleagues. Submit a brief description to Submit before 12 December for the next Newsletter to be issued on 15 December.