Water-Culture Institute

Water Ethics Charter

The purpose of a Water Ethics Charter is to provide a moral basis for water management decisions which cannot be accurately valued in financial terms, and are not mandated legally.  In partnership with the Académie de l'Eau, UNESCO, and other organizations, and in consultation with key water stakeholders (companies, cities, government agencies, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs,, etc.) we will develop consensus around a clear set of ethical principles for governing water use and management.  The Charter will be presented at the World Water Forum in South Korea in April 2015, followed by a campaign to build awareness about the Charter and invite endorsements. 

The Water Ethics Charter will serve as a tool for better decision-making through crystalizing ethical concepts that make intuitive sense to a broad range of stakeholders, cutting across cultural boundaries and gender, age and class distinctions.  The Charter will articulate a common set of principles about how water and water ecosystems should be utilized and protected for the benefit of present and future generations.  Some provisional objectives of the Water Ethics Charter (subject to revision) are the following:

  • Articulate clear principles and guidelines of what constitutes ethical water practices in particular situations;
  • Recognize inherent rights of water ecosystems to exist in a healthy state, and the right of people to enjoy clean water and healthy water ecosystems;
  • Raise awareness about the ethical implications of water policies and water decisions at multiple scales;
  • Elicit endorsement by companies, agencies, cities, indigenous groups and NGOs to uphold and disseminate the Charter;
  • Promote social and legal reconciliation among diverse stakeholders through values-based deliberation and consensus around a shared water ethic.
Background.  The need for a Water Ethics Charter was a recommendation of the 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille, in the session, "Toward and Ethical and Spiritual Approach to Water".   An initial planning meeting held in April 2013 established an ad hoc Steering Committee to guide the process.  [Click for the minutes of this meeting, in French.]   An expanded 9-member Steering Committee held its first meeting on 3-4 March 2014 at UNESCO-Paris.  The institutions currently represented on the Committee are: Alliance for Water Stewardship, Botin Foundation Water Observatory, Center for Water Use Ethics (Egypt), Club of Rome, French Water Academy, Indigenous Environmental Network, UNESCO, Water-Culture Institute, and Water Youth Network.  (The Meeting Report is included in the Documents section, below). 

Latest News.  The consultation process for developing the text of the Charter has begun.  The Steering Committee is inviting ideas and comments regarding the content of the Charter.  See the Call for Input issued on 10 July 2014 by UNESCO, on behalf of the Committee.  A companion document, "Brainstorming Elements" for Development of a Water Ethics Charter (see Documents section, below) provides a suggested table of contents for the Charter.  Comments can be proposed on specific topics, and new topics can also be suggested.  The Charter text will be complied into a coherent document and presented as a draft Charter to the World Water Forum in South Korea, in April 2015.  The process and timeline of Charter development is outlined in the "Presentation of the Water Ethics Charter Initiative" (See Documents section, below).

How to Get Involved.  If you are interested in learning more, see the website of the Water Ethics Network, where there is further information on the Charter, resources on water ethics, and links to the Network's social media sites.  For specific questions or suggestions about the Charter, contact the Water Ethics Network Coordinator at network@waterculture.org.


     "Brainstorming Elements" for Development of a Water Ethics Charter (July 2014)

     Presentation of the Water Ethics Charter Initiative (July 2014)

     Report of the First Steering Committee Meeting (3-4 March 2014)

     Background Note (prepared for the Steering Committee meeting, 3-4 March 2014)
     The Practical Importance of Water Ethics (Discussion Paper, August 2013).