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The Local Government Water Code

- The Lisbon Principles -

Access to clean and affordable drinking water is a fundamental right. As such, governments have an obligation to ensure water and sanitation services for all.

The primary obligation and duty of government is to facilitate the satisfaction of basic human needs and to promote public health. The production and distribution of good quality drinking water and the simultaneous, safe treatment and disposal of sewage, waste and contaminated effluents are prerequisites for productive community life. They must be provided to all and be protected, monitored and governed by accountable public authorities.

Water must be governed as a common good.

As the source of life, water resources must be governed within a framework of shared responsibility. Shared responsibility involves an obligation on the part of all people and institutions, both individually and collectively, to value and protect water resources. Local authorities must lead this movement for responsible water governance. While water resources are amenable to public, community or private management, they need to be controlled, secured and governed by accountable public authorities or recognized indigenous or traditional authorities. In order to promote responsible water governance, governments must support the participation of all stakeholders as partners, with full information, in protecting watershed areas and in determining the water and environmental sanitation services that they receive.

Water must be protected as the ecological foundation of life.

Commensurate with human uses, water has value in its natural state and must be protected to sustain all forms of life. Water must be utilized within the framework of ecological carrying capacities. Pollution should be prevented at its source, and polluted water should be reclaimed and reused. Conservation of water resources must be promoted. Human activities should not threaten the long-term sustainability of a natural water source.

Water must be managed as a finite economic resource.

Charges for water and related services must, in aggregate, reflect the true value of water resources and consider both the current and future cost of service provision. Water should not be wasted. The waste or pollution of water must bear an economic cost. The financial responsibility for water must be both collective and individual. Prices for water and water services must be structured to permit all people to secure their basic human water needs.

Water must be preserved as a shared cultural asset.

Water is part of a shared human heritage. Access to water for sacred, religious, cultural and recreational purposes should be available to all. The management of water should consider socio-cultural traditions and should contribute to the strengthening of peace and solidarity among people, communities, countries, genders and generations.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas -