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SDG: Access to Clean Water and Effective Waste Management for All

The following document was submitted to the UN via NGLS for the July 12th deadline by members of the Commons Cluster.

It will be promoted during the sessions of the Open Working Group and adapted as needed.

Title:  Sustainable Development Goal on Water Within the United Nation's Post-2015 Development Agenda

Title: Access to Clean Water and Effective Waste Management for All


The HLP Suggests The Following Targets And Indicators On Water and Sanitation

 It is possible to see freshwater and sanitation as a commons resource, which it naturally and obviously is and to  secure  it for future generations by securing the common natural environments which it is dependent upon. Freshwater security is the common foundation for all environmental stability and security and all Sustainable Development Goals.


Section 6:  Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation

  • Target 6a. Provide universal access to safe drinking water at home, and in schools, health centers, and refugee camps 1, 2
  • Indicators 6 aa: Percentage of people that have access to clean drinking water
  • Indicator 6a b:Percentage of people that have access to safe drinking water in the home or in the immediate surroundings
  • Indicator 6 a b Percentage of students starting with Primary School that have access to safe drinking water
  • Indicator 6a c: Percentage of health centers with access to clean drinking water.
  • Percentage of refugee camps that have access to sufficient clean drinking water to meet the needs of all inhabitants.
  • Indicator: Percentage of water privatized.
  • Target 6b. End open defecation and ensure universal access to sanitation at school and work, and increase access to sanitation at home 1, 2
  • Indicator 6ba. Percentage of people that have access to sanitation at home, school and work.
  • Target 6c. Bring freshwater withdrawals in line with supply and increase water efficiency in agriculture
  • industry by y% and urban areas by
  • Target 6d. Recycle or treat all municipal and industrial wastewater prior to discharge 1, 3


United Nations Supportive Water Policy

  • The UN resolution on the human right to water and sanitation is a catalyst for further policy discussion between stakeholders and across sectors, and in the development of programs that make possible the full realization of the rights of individuals and communities. 
  • A human rights-based approach to water security addresses critical gaps and bottlenecks, and emphasizes the establishment of regulatory functions and mechanisms for efficiency, participation and accountability.
  • All Human Rights have their basis and foundations in freshwater security. For it to be even possible for all people in a country or in the world, to have access to clean drinking water or even for there to be freshwater it is vital to stabilize the global freshwater cycle. It is this cycle, which determines the quantity and quality of freshwater throughout the world. If this cycle is not protected and secured major freshwater problems will be experienced within the rich developed countries as well as the poorer countries and global poverty will rise alarmingly in relation to this.
  •  Environmental laws often dictate the planning and actions that agencies take to manage watersheds. Some laws require that planning be done, others can be used to make a plan legally enforceable and others set out the ground rules for what can and cannot be done in development and planning. Most countries and states have their own laws regarding watershed management.
  • Those concerned about aquatic habitat protection have a right to participate in the laws and planning processes that affect aquatic habitats. By having a clear understanding of whom to speak to and how to present the case for keeping our waterways clean a member of the public can become an effective watershed protection advocate
  • Water security is also the foundation for food and energy security, and for overall long-term social and economic development. Water underpins health, nutrition, equity, gender equality, well-being and  economic progress, especially in  developing countries. But equitable water supply and quality problems are also  threatening the security of  some of the most developed countries in the world. In the USA, for  example, water availability has already been identified as a  national  security concern, threatening its ability to meet the country’s water,  food and energy needs.”  
  • It was very clearly stated in August 2012 by U.N Water that achieving freshwater security is essential for the realization of all MDG and Post  2015 Goals
  • The continuous pace of human development is   threatening the capacity of ecosystems to adapt, raising concerns that   ecosystems will reach a  tipping point after which they are no longer   able to provide sustaining functions and services, and will become   unable to recover their integrity and  functions (Maas, 2012).”  (U.N Water Security August 2012).
  • One billion people on earth  are  without reliable  supplies of water and more than 2 billion people  lack  basic sanitation.
  • It   has recently been officially recognized and confirmed by U.N Water Security and other departments within the U.N, that the protection of  the  environments which regulate global freshwater is central to water security and is a matter of national, international and global security.  
  • In many countries, national security has historically been defined as military security. It is now understood that military might is only one element in the human security equation, and that water can play a determining role in international, national and transboundary conflicts. Although real potential exists for conflict over water, water tensions can also offer potential for cooperation between states, so long as the underlying institutions and capacity are in place for such cooperation to happen. (U.N Water Security August 2012).
  • Good water governance is essential to achieving water security, and requires well-designed and empowered institutions with supporting legislative and policy instruments. Achieving water security requires institutional, legal and regulatory support and capacity for change, adaptive management structures, new forms of relationships, and multi- layered models capable of integrating complex natural and social dimensions. Governance structures must be adapted to local conditions and needs, applied at various levels so that they mutually reinforce and complement one another.  (U.N Analytical Brief  22/3/13)
  • The new Post 2015 agenda offers a way whereby states, nations and private  bodies can create  cooperative relations and action plans for working  collectively to  solve the common problems of freshwater insecurity Only through protecting and restoring the environments, which the freshwater cycle is dependent upon can we potentially  mitigate environmental disasters and conflicts related to food and water  scarcity Only this way can we possibly achieve universal access to  freshwater worldwide.

On July 28th, 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution GA 10967 recognizing access to clean water, sanitation as Human Right, by recorded vote of 122 in favor, none against, 41 abstentions. It is possible to see water and sanitation as a commons resource.





  1. John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is:  "That area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."
  • Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They cross county, state, and national boundaries. In the continental US, there are 2,110 watersheds; including Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico, there are 2,267 watersheds.
  • A watershed or drainage basin is the area of land that provides water to a stream, river, reservoir, lake, or estuary.



  1. Watershed management is the study of the relevant characteristics of a watershed aimed at the sustainable distribution of its resources and the process of creating and implementing plans, programs, and projects to sustain and enhance watershed functions that affect the plant, animal, and human communities within a watershed boundary.
  • Features of a watershed that agencies seek to manage include water supply, water quality, drainage, storm water runoff, water rights, and the overall planning and utilization of watersheds.
  • Landowners, land use agencies, storm water management experts, environmental specialists, water use surveyors and communities all play an integral part in the management of a watershed.
  • In an agricultural landscape, common contributors to water pollution are nutrients and sediment which typically enter stream systems after rainfall washes them off poorly managed agricultural fields, called surface runoff, or flushes them out of the soil through leaching.
  • These types of pollutants are considered nonpoint source pollution because the exact point where the pollutant originated cannot be identified.
  • Such pollutants remain a major issue for water ways because the difficulty to control their sources hinders any attempt to limit the pollution.
  • Point source pollution originates a specific point of contamination such as if a manure containment structure fails and its contents enter the drainage system or when a factory discharges its waste directly into a body of water using a pipe.
  • In urban landscapes, issues of soil loss through erosion, from construction sites for example, and nutrient enrichment from lawn fertilizers exist. Point source pollution, such as effluent from waste water treatment plants and other industries play a much larger role in this setting.
  • Also, the greatly increased area of impervious surfaces, such as concrete, combined with modern storm drainage systems, allows for water and the contaminants that it can carry with it to exit the urban landscape quickly and end up in the nearest stream.
  • Identify Aboriginal, First Nations and Indigenous Peoples that have ongoing traditional knowledge practices that protect and maintain safe, holistic, healthy water practices within forest, tropical, everglades, mountainous, deserts, glacier and waterways.  
  • Partner with these Aboriginal, First Nations and Indigenous Peoples in protecting their safe practices that can be duplicated in regions for the protection and rehabilitation of watersheds.
  • Water pollution contamination from farmland wash off into everglades watersheds are in need of massive, holistic cleanup measures. 
  • Mountain regions with their snow and glaciers are a major ecosystem and  composite of environments essential for the quantity  and quality of  fresh water globally.
  • They are an interconnected and essential part of  the global freshwater cycle. They affect freshwater security for the whole world.
  • It is vital for global water security that the key  roles  that ecosystems, especially mountains, glaciers, mountain forests  and  wetlands play in maintaining the global freshwater cycle along with  the  quantity and quality of freshwater  worldwide are recognized and  that all supportive efforts that protect, sustainably manage and restore  these ecosystems  are given immediate and urgent attention. This was emphasized and agreed upon by world governments in at the UNCSD in Rio  in 2012. 


  • Little if any comparable life sustaining resources are ensured in the midst human displacement.
  • Decimation of culture and traditional life and living is disrupted, displaced and dismantled.
  • Families are torn apart and cease to recovery life within sustainable surroundings.
  • Economies, ecologies, environments and sociological networks are destroyed leaving ones in emotional, physical and psychological distress.
  • Massive loss of life and good health accompany being removed from original land, territory and sustaining habitat.
  • Numerous wildlife species, organisms and aquatic life networks are lost forever or may be immensely damaged by the shift in the flow of water.
  • Restitution, redress, reparations and reciprocity of past, current and future hydroelectric damn disruption, dismantlization and displacement must be addressed with full measure of comparable sustainable resources put into action that assist in establishing cultural and traditional economies, ecologies, environments and sociological networks in recovering, rebuilding and developing the future they denote as being necessary, just and comparable to their hope for a sustainable, holistic future.


  1. The construction of dykes, dams and large reservoirs required for the operation of hydroelectric power stations, the construction of dykes, and dams:
  • has negative consequences for individual wetlands and entire watersheds. 
  • Their closeness to lakes and rivers means that they are often developed for human settlement. 
  • Once settlements are constructed and protected by dykes, the settlements then become vulnerable to land subsidence and ever increasing risk of flooding.  
  • Submersion of extensive areas upstream of the dams, 
  • Destroying biologically rich and productive lowland and riverine valley forests, marshland and grasslands. 
  • The loss of land is often exacerbated by habitat fragmentation of surrounding areas caused by the reservoir.
  • Hydroelectric projects can be disruptive to surrounding aquatic ecosystems both upstream and downstream of the plant site.
  • Generation of hydroelectric power changes the downstream river environment.
  • Water exiting a turbine usually contains very little suspended sediment, which can lead to scouring of river beds and loss of riverbanks.
  • Since turbine gates are often opened intermittently, rapid or even daily fluctuations in river flow are observed.


  1. Indigenous Peoples First Peoples and Aboriginals inherent human right to water, human right to safe and secure boarders and their human right to sustain their safe cultural and traditional living is in great jeopardy in the midst of hydroelectric dams development.  They have been greatly affected by the building and development of hydroelectric dams. Dam development interrupts and displaces:
  • The natural flow of rivers  
  • Local ecosystems
  • Cultural, traditional and sustainable life cycles and living
  • Natural, sustainable life and habitat of wildlife




 Why privatization of water became an exceedingly growing industry in the 20th Century:

  • Widespread privatization efforts grew in the late 20th Century when international financial institutions required countries seeking assistance to deregulate, abolish subsidies, and even sell much of their water systems and infrastructure to private investors.  
  • The rationale was that privatization would result in more efficiency and less corruption.  Private investors would have the wherewithal and the incentive to build, maintain, and upgrade expensive water facilities in order to turn a profit, whereas governments in many of these countries had been doing a poor job of stewarding their publicly-financed (and often starved) water industries.  
  • These privatization programs continue today in many heavily indebted countries which continue to seek loans and aid from international institutions.
  • It is estimated that around 15% of the almost 4 billion people in the world who do have access to clean water and sanitation get it from a private industry.


Government and Private Water Investment

  • If you look across the spectrum of activity required to extract, treat, and deliver freshwater, you will find that usually some parts of the process are owned and/or managed by the public sector, some parts are contracted out to private companies and vendors, and some parts are an indistinguishable mix of subsidies, public-private investments, and market forces.
  • In some places the public sector (government) may have a monopoly because it controls treatment systems and pipes.
  • In other places, private industry may have a monopoly, as in areas where water vendors sell to households that are not reached by public utilities.  
  • Usually, it is a mix.  Incentives to invest in water are great for both the public and private sectors – for the public in terms of the large yield in human development from small improvements, for the private in terms of money that can be made from distributing a valuable universally-used resource.


Water privatization effects:

  • In their efforts to recoup often significant investments, private water companies usually increase prices on the water they provide.  In some cases, these price increases have been so hefty as to knock poor consumers out of the market entirely, leaving them, again, with no access to water because they cannot afford it even when it is physically accessible.
  • The UN Development Program notes that privatization has hurt many in the developing world, where poor people pay some of the highest prices for water.  For example, the poorest 20% of households in El Salvador, Jamaica, and Nicaragua spend up to 10% of their income on water.    
  • Privatization schemes often appear undemocratic in that they exclude the citizenry from the decision-making processes in what was formerly a public utility.  
  • Privatization often results in local job losses as multinational corporations and conglomerates both reduce work forces through improved efficiencies and transfer jobs to workers in other countries.
  • When profit is a motive in water provision, less lucrative services often suffer.  Efficiency dictates that resources go where they produce the highest return – this means poor rural areas and other hard-to-serve customer bases get lower priority.
  • In some cases, private companies have retreated from particularly poor areas where returns on investment have been low or from areas where local resistance and protests against privatization have made for bad public relations.  In these cases, the cost of picking up the pieces is often higher for local governments than it might have been had the private companies not been there in the first place.
  • Cases in which privatization has worked well usually include special voucher programs whereby purchases for those unable to afford water are subsidized by the government or aid organizations.


Water privatization projects


  • Large and Super-Hydroelectric Dams are many times funded by foreign entities, corporations and private institutions with a core interest financial return.  Such practices can cause instability, conflict and security issues.  Full consideration must be taken into consideration prior establishing commitments to hydro-electric damn development of the ongoing effects and affects they cause.


Water privatization concerns

  • Water privatization schemes throughout the world have a track record of skyrocketing prices, water quality problems, deteriorating service and a loss of local control. 
  • Vulnerable to corruption and operating according to a profit-driven corporate agenda fundamentally incompatible with delivering an essential service, private water companies are failing to provide citizens with safe, affordable water. Private corporations seek to increase profit margins by cutting costs; hence privatization is almost always accompanied by lay-offs.


Alternatives to water privatization:

  • Most people are not convinced that the answer can be found in ceding their public water systems to private profit-making corporations. Instead, around the world, local communities have developed their own creative water management solutions. Let us explore a range of dynamic alternative models of publicly-owned or collectively-owned water services that focus on democratic participation, local accountability and community activism.


 Targets and Indicators

  • About 48.7% of the world's land drains to the Atlantic Ocean. In North America, surface water drains to the Atlantic via the Saint Lawrence River and Great Lakes basins, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, the Canadian Maritimes, and most of New found land and Labrador. Nearly all of South America east of the Andes also drains to the Atlantic, as does most of Western and Central Europe and the greatest portion of western Sub-Saharan Africa. The three major Mediterranean seas of the world also flow to the Atlantic:
  • The American Mediterranean Sea (the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico) basin includes most of the U.S. interior between the
  • Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, a small part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, eastern Central America, the islands of the Caribbean and the Gulf, and a small part of northern South America.
  • The European Mediterranean Sea basin includes much of North Africa, east-central Africa (through the Nile River), Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the coastal areas of Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.
  • The Arctic Ocean drains most of Western and Northern Canada east of the Continental Divide, northern Alaska and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana in the United States, the north shore of the Scandinavian peninsula in Europe, and much of central and northern Russia.
  • Just over 13% of the land in the world drains to the Pacific Ocean. Its basin includes much of China, southeastern Russia, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, most of Indonesia and Malaysia, the Philippines, all of the Pacific Islands, the northeast coast of Australia, and Canada and the United States west of the Continental Divide (including most of Alaska), as well as western Central America and South America west of the Andes.
  • The Indian Ocean's drainage basin also comprises about 13% of Earth's land. It drains the eastern coast of Africa, the coasts of theRed Sea and the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent, Burma, and most of Australia.
  • The Southern Ocean drains Antarctica. Antarctica comprises approximately eight percent of the Earth's land.


  1.  Action


Watershed Central:  Officially unveiled in 2009, Watershed Central was developed by a multidisciplinary team within the EPA in response to an apparent gap in terms of a one-stop shop for watershed tools and data. Over 100 people across state, local, federal, and tribal governments contributed to an online vision for Watershed Central. A key element of the vision was to help managers discover the correct tools to use to support the various steps of developing a watershed management plan, and secondly, to create an environment that would foster the exchange of lessons learned and best management practices across the nation

  • Provides an integrated water quality assessment and management context for EPA’s watershed tools and science to expedite remediation of American waters.
  • Provides a mechanism to document analyses, decisions, and watershed plan effectiveness.
  • Builds capacity of local watershed organizations to develop and implement comprehensive watershed management programs to protect and restore water resources.
  • Provides a means for improving the consistency and compatibility of various data elements provided by public agencies across the country.
  • Supports decreased time-frames for development of scientifically credible and defensible watershed plans.
  • Informs the Agency and collaborative agencies regarding research gaps and impact of products.
  • Integrates good science with regulatory drivers and social and economic incentives.
  • Leverages knowledge and capability across Federal, State, local agencies, tribes, etc.

Community, Public Water Partnerships:

Private companies have offered themselves as the solution, but have not posted a good record. Many cities have concluded that their vital water and wastewater services could be operated more efficiently in the public sphere.  A number of communities have reorganized operation and management under local, public control. 

  • Saves money
  • Rewarded employees
  • maintained or improved water quality 
  • kept money in the community


  • In agricultural systems, common practices include the use of buffer strips, grassed waterways, the reestablishment of wetlands, and forms of sustainable agriculture practices such as conservation tillage, crop rotation and intercropping. 
  • After certain practices are installed, it is important to continually monitor these systems to ensure that they are working properly in terms of improving environmental quality.
  • In urban settings, managing areas to prevent soil loss and control storm water flow are a few of the areas that receive attention.
  • A few practices that are used to manage storm water before it reach  34s a channel are retention ponds, filtering systems and wetlands.
  • It is important that storm water is given an opportunity to infiltrate so that the soil and vegetation can act as a "filter" before the water reaches nearby streams or lakes. In the case of soil erosion prevention, a few common practices include the use of silt fences, landscape fabric with grass seed and hydro-seeding. 
  • The main objective in all cases is to slow water movement to prevent soil transport.


A large proportion of all life on Earth exists in the oceans. Exactly how large the proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. Oceans cover about 71% of the Earth's surface, and because of their depth they contain about 300 times the habitable volume of the terrestrial habitats on Earth.

Marine life:

  • Is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world.
  • At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate.
  • Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.
  • Many species are economically important to humans, including food fish. It is also becoming understood that the well-being of marine organisms and other organisms are linked in very fundamental ways.
  • The human body of knowledge regarding the relationship between life in the sea and important cycles is rapidly growing, with new discoveries being made nearly every day.
  • These cycles include those of matter (such as the carbon cycle) and of air (such as Earth's respiration, and movement of energy through ecosystems including the ocean). Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain effectively unexplored.

Marine ecosystems cover approximately: 

  • 71% of the Earth's surface and contain approximately 97% of the planet's water.
  • They generate 32% of the world's net primary production.
  • They are distinguished from freshwater ecosystems by the presence of dissolved compounds, especially salts, in the water.
  • Approximately 85% of the dissolved materials in seawater are sodium and chlorine.
  • Seawater has an average salinity of 35 parts per thousand (ppt) of water. Actual salinity varies among different marine ecosystems.
  • Freshwater ecosystems cover 0.80% of the Earth's surface and inhabit 0.009% of its total water. They generate nearly 3% of its net primary production.
  • Freshwater ecosystems contain 41% of the world's known fish species.

Reference Links:


Sandra Nelson Zongo

Indigenous Liaison Commons Cluster

Commons Action for the United Nations

UN Rep. Institute for Planetary Synthesis

Human Affect Ad Hoc Unit “Policy In Action Cluster”


Dr. Lisinka Ulatowska

Coordinator Commons Cluster and
Commons Action for the United Nations
UN Rep. Association of World Citizens;
Institute for Planetary Synthesis

All Win Network


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