Environmental Rights

Business's water consumption rates impose water scarcity on communities


Water scarcity is the shortage of fresh water to meet the basic needs of the community. A lack of safe and clean drinking water – and, consequently, access to sanitation – can have significant effects on the health, dignity and prosperity of a community.


Access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation are essential human rights. Water scarcity also has significant impacts on many other human rights, including those of life and health, and on the rights of children. As the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has observed: “water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity.”


Competing demand for water from business and communities can result in water scarcity, create conflict and lead to the interruption or even prevention of commercial business activities. Community perceptions of the impact of business operations on water resources are a common feature of disputes between businesses and host governments. Responsible management of water resources is a key component of sustainable development and long-term risk management for businesses that require access to water for their operations.


Businesses should prepare appropriate plans covering anticipated water usage and efficiency, water security, risk and liability, and community engagement. Businesses should seek to identify possible areas for infrastructure development to enhance access to water in local communities (for example, potable water treatment plants, desalination plants, irrigation). Businesses should conduct ongoing reviews and monitoring of water usage data with a supporting community engagement strategy and conduct continuous monitoring.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 25
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, Articles 11 and 12
United Nations Resolution on The Human Right to Water and Sanitation, 2010 (A/RES/64/292)



SDG 6.1

Businesses that address the risk of water scarcity may contribute to reaching SDG 6.1: By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.