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Water Ethics: What does it mean in practice?

On 19 May 2021, the Workshop for Water Ethics (W4W) hosted its 6th interdisciplinary colloquium, titled ‘Water Ethics: What does it mean in practice?' Dr Evelyne Fiechter-Widemann's opening remarks focused on water advocacy, and she thanked for contributing to the knowledge landscape via  the Blue Ethics publication. She drew attention to the debate surrounding drinking water within the Swiss context and described it as ‘an extremely complex and intensively discussed topic in need of a multi-disciplinary response'.

In his presentation on ‘Public participation in water management: Chinese experiences', Prof. Dr Asit K. Biswas opened by reflecting ‘how do people get involved with water, what are their interactions with water and how does it make their life better?'  He noted that in China, many people volunteer to do something good for society. He exemplified a case study of public participation with water authorities. People volunteer to collect specimens, measure water quality, and then share these results with the water department to complement their monitoring system. There is thus direct involvement from the public, with significant impact due to increased data collection.  Dr Asit also noted how this had been integrated into urban planning, with many new builds being built with a rain garden in mind. Rain gardens channel and harvest water from the roof to sustain shallow areas with fish and aquatic life.  These rain gardens create a place of gathering and community, and they trigger engagement and encourage people to care about water.

Dr Benoît Girardin focused his intervention on the Eco-Broye project, the largest Agro bio plant in Switzerland, providing 1500 households with electricity. Within this project, farmers limited chemicals, fostered biodiversity and contributed to joint monitoring. The manure that is processed into biogas produces over 6.8 gig watts per year, and in addition, the bio plant also contributes to reducing the CO2 footprint, saving an equivalent of 3000 t of CO2 a year. Whilst the project produced many impressive outcomes, the main message Dr Benoît Girardin focused on was equity. Through joint monitoring, farmers who were previously considered as stakeholders turned into shareholders, with real ownership and accountability.  He concluded remarks described ‘ethics as a guide in risk management and dilemma handling'.

Lastly, Prof. Dr. Laurence Boisson de Chazournes intervention titled ‘The contribution of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to access to water' focused on the legal perspective. She first noted that the broad political support for the SDGs has meant that they bypass traditional regulations. Within the legal context, the right to water within the international community is defined as access to water and sanitation for domestic use. However, she noted that SDG 6 pushes the boundaries with regard to the right to water, as within the SGD, water is not limited to domestic use. 

Great strides are being made, but we must continue to push for change. is at the forefront of advocating for lasting change, not just by integrating ethics into higher education to lead the next generation to ethical decision-making but also through our knowledge resources, such as the Blue Ethics publication. Let us keep advocating and pushing for change. Register to join our network and join us in our mission today!