Addressing the ‘water crisis’
: the complementary roles of water governance and the human right to water

  • Hilary Judith Grimes

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    There has been talk of countries facing water "crises" and even predictions of a "global water crisis", for some years now. The effects of climate change, population growth, and ever higher levels of development are being felt around the world. Even in the United Kingdom, generally considered to have plentiful rainfall, there have been restrictions on water use. How much more serious a problem, then, is this issue for those countries with less bountiful water resources and fewer financial resources to cope with increasing water stress. One common response has been to consider the water crisis as a "crisis of governance", in recognition that it is less about the lack of water and more about the need to address poverty and power imbalances within society. However, this neither clarifies the measures to be taken nor the responsibilities that governments have towards their people when facing such a crisis. This thesis explores the meaning and implications of "good water governance" as a means of addressing the water crisis and concludes that for the meas to be successful a clear end goal is required. This thesis proposes that the normative content of the Human Right to Water is a useful starting point in defining the goals for national water policy able to meet the challenge of a potential water crisis. By combining positive contributions both good water governance and the Human Right to Water, the thesis develops a framework to assist governments in planning, implementing and monitoring the measures necessary to fulfil their responsibilities. In order to verify the framework that has been developed, the thesis applies the framework to the case of South Africa, a country that is facing increasing water stress while still redressing the balance of past inequities. The thesis concludes that a framework using aspects from a water governance approach and aspects of the Human Right to Water can assist governments to focus their efforts on the critical issues that affect their communities' access to water.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish


    • Human rights
    • Water governance

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