International Law and Freshwater
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International Law and Freshwater

The Multiple Challenges

Edited by Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Christina Leb and Mara Tignino

International Law and Freshwater connects recent legal developments through the breadth and synergies of a multidisciplinary analysis. It addresses such critical issues as water security, the right to water, international cooperation and dispute resolution, State succession to transboundary watercourse treaties, and facets of international economic law, including trade in ‘virtual water’ and the impacts of ‘land grabs’.
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Chapter 4: Water and sanitation are human rights: why does it matter?

The Multiple Challenges

Catarina de Albuquerque


As of 2010 there were 780 million people without access to improved drinking-water sources,2 and no information being available on the number of people without access to safe water, simply because water quality is (still) not measured at the global level. These global figures camouflage even deeper inequalities, since there are obvious profound differences not only between the developed and the developing world, but also within countries themselves. The rural population without access to an improved drinking water source is over five times greater than in urban areas. Furthermore, in several Sub-Saharan African countries more than one-quarter of the population takes longer than 30 minutes to make one water collection round trip. Research has shown that in these cases those people will collect progressively less water, eventually failing to meet their families’ minimum daily water needs. The figures regarding access to sanitation (the “orphan development goal”) are even more devastating, with some 2.5 billion people without access to improved sanitation and over 1 billion people practicing open defecation on a daily basis (which produces enough faeces “to fill a football stadium” every day), making lack of sanitation “one of the greatest untold development challenges facing the international community” and one of the most off-track of the Millennium Development Goals. The target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals will probably only be met, on current trends, by 2026.

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