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United Nations Human Rights Office of the High commissioner
Welcome to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

What are the Rights to
Water & Sanitation?

In the course of 2010 the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council recognised the human right to water and sanitation. This right is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living as consecrated in article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in other human rights treaties. Hence, it is part of international human rights law. A number of criteria can be used to specify the content of the right:


The human right to water is limited to personal and domestic uses and foresees a supply for each person that must be sufficient for these purposes. Likewise, a sufficient number of sanitation facilities has to be available.


Access to sanitation and water must not compromise the ability to pay for other essential needs guaranteed by human rights such as food, housing and health care.


Water has to be safe for comsuption and other uses, so that it is no threat to human health. Sanitation facilities must be hygienically and technically safe to use. To ensure hygien, access to water for cleaning and hand washing after use is essential.


Sanitation facilities, in particular, have to be colturally acceptable. This will often require separate male and female facilities, constructed in a way that ensures privacy and dignity.


Water and sanitation services must be accessible to everyone in the household or its vicinity on a continous basis. Physical security must not be threatened when accessing facilities.