Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

Human Right to Water

In 2012, the Community Water Center, as a member of the Safe Water Alliance, sponsored AB 685 (Eng) – The Human Right to Water. This legislation was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 25, 2012, making California the first state in the nation to legally recognize the human right to water (HRTW). AB 685, now Water Code Section 106.3, statutorily recognizes that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” The HRTW extends to all Californians, including vulnerable and marginalized individuals, groups, and communities in rural, tribal, and urban areas.

AB 685 affirms the State’s commitment to guaranteeing affordable, accessible, acceptable, and safe water sufficient to protect the health and dignity of all residents; prioritizes water for personal and domestic use; and delineates the responsibilities of public officials at the state level.

Agencies Have a Duty to Consider the Human Right to Water
AB 685 creates an ongoing obligation for State agencies to consider the HRTW — specifically the factors of safety, affordability, and accessibility — in all relevant policy, programming, and budgetary activities. According to relevant case law and international standards, in order to fulfill the directive “to consider,” agencies must:
• Give preference to and adopt policies that advance the HRTW;
• Refrain from adopting policies or regulations that run contrary to the HRTW; and
• Note in the record of decisions the possible impact that actions will have on the HRTW.

Furthermore, agencies should consider the HRTW when:
• Planning priorities and initiatives;
• Developing an approach for public participation;
• Providing public access to information about water quality, accessibility, and affordability;
• Reporting on agency actions that impact domestic water use; and
• Determining loans and grant criteria for water infrastructure improvement.

In May of 2013, the Safe Water Alliance worked in partnership with the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law to develop a HRTW implementation framework for State agencies. The full report can be found: Here.

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