Share to Google Classroom

Is access to water a human right?

Water covers over two-thirds of the Earth, but only about 1% is drinkable. The UN states that "the human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights." High profile water crises in the United States - like lead contamination in Flint, MI and Washington D.C., droughts in California, and protests to protect water at the Standing Rock Reservation - have brought forward important conversations about clean, safe water access across the country. As the world focuses on climate change and water scarcity as global issues, many are asking an important question: is access to water a human right?


Many Native Americans Can't Get Clean Water, Report Finds

Why Many In The Great Lakes Region Can't Afford Basic Drinking Water

Additional resources to think about

A Solar-Powered Step In The Fight Against Water Scarcity | Joe's Big Idea
Evelyn Wang, a mechanical engineer, talks about how new technology uses the power of sunlight to collect water in dry, remote areas.

Human Rights to Water and Sanitation | United Nations
UN Water's definitions and information about Human Rights to Water and Sanitation

Are we running out of clean water? | TED Ed
More than half the world's population endures extreme water scarcity at least one month of the year. This video from TED Ed explores why we have water shortages despite the fact that 71% of the Earth's surface is covered in water.

A City Built on Water Is Running Out of It
This video from Bloomberg Quicktake looks at the water crisis in Mexico City, its infrastructure and history, and how unequal water access affects the city's poorest residents.

This country gave all its rivers their own legal rights
In Bangladesh, the Supreme Court has given all rivers in the country legal rights, meaning the government's human representatives for the waters can sue on behalf of the rivers. But enforcement isn't easy, and many other countries and regions have tried similar moves to pass "rights of nature" laws.

The teen fighting to protect Canada's water — meet Autumn Peltier
Meet the 13-year-old Anishinaabe First Nations Canadian who is standing up as an advocate and activist for clean, safe water.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Is access to water a human right?

How was your Thinkalong experience?

We actively use feedback to provide better resources to students and educators, so please take 1 minute to provide feedback and help us improve.