The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights convened a hearing on April 4 on the Right to Water in the United States, following a petition from the US Human Rights Network and the Right to Water Coalition. The hearing took place in Washington, DC, during the 157th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission and addressed issues related to the denial of the right to water and sanitation in the US.
“The current water crisis in Flint, MI where local tap water is poisoned with lead in a city that is 61% Black, as well as the contamination of the San Juan River in the King Gold Mine disaster that has impacted indigenous Navajo communities in Shiprock, New Mexico are just two of the ongoing violations of the basic human rights to water and sanitation in the U.S. that petitioners are calling attention to. The petition also looks at issues of affordability and mass water shut-offs including in Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, Flint, and Lucerne in Lake County, CA, as well as infrastructure and accessibility, all of which have disproportionately impacted low-income communities of color and Indigenous Peoples, particularly the elderly, children, pregnant women, the disabled, the chronically ill, or other vulnerable groups, in both major cities and in rural areas,” said the US Human Rights Network after filing the petition for the hearing in January.
The National Lawyers Guild has signed on to USHRN’s petitions to the IACHR for hearings on the right to water in the United States. US government representatives emphasized in their comments that the US had not ratified human rights documents that would impose an obligation in regards to the human right to water, while members of the Commission pointed out that human rights are inherent. Victims of environmental injustice presented about the government’s lack of response in guaranteeing water and sanitation to communities of color and impoverished communities in Georgia, Kentucky, the Dine (Navajo) Nation, California, and Flint and Detroit, Michigan. The video of the hearing is now available in full from IACHR and includes statements from petitioners and US government representatives: