UN rights expert welcomes California safe drinking water law

UN rights expert welcomes California safe drinking water law

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[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque [official profile] on Friday applauded [press release] a new California law [AB 685, PDF] creating a right to safe drinking water. Assemblymember Mike Eng [official website] sponsored the legislation, which declares “the established policy of the state [to be] that every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” De Albuquerque said:

I remember the tragic stories of farm-worker women in Seville, in the San Joaquin Valley, who were condemned to drinking the water from their polluted wells because they did not have the money to purchase bottled water. I recall the crying women who told me that they were devoting about 20 per cent of their US$14,000 per year income to water and sanitation. … This bill is a clear sign that bringing safe and affordable water to all in California is a political priority, which I warmly welcome. I am happy to congratulate the state of California for this historical step.

California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] signed [press release] the bill into law last week. California’s House and Senate had previously passed an access to water bill, but it was vetoed [text] by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In July 2010 the UN General Assembly [official website] adopted [JURIST report] a resolution [materials] declaring that access to clean and sanitized drinking water is a basic human right. The resolution passed by a vote of 122-0. One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [official website] to reduce social and economic harms by 2015 includes decreasing the number of people who cannot reach or afford safe drinking water and do not have basic sanitation by half. The resolution expressed concern that approximately 884 million people are without access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. In March of that year, Bolivian President Evo Morales [BBC profile] called on the UN [JURIST report] to declare access to safe drinking water a basic human right and introduced the resolution.