Coronavirus emergency: National governments and European institutions must ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Brussels, 24 march 2020

Measures taken in Europe to contain the spread of Coronavirus pandemic are producing a state of exception where people are subject to several prohibitions and prescriptions. We must stay in and apply strict hygiene recommendations, which implies guaranteed access to water and sanitation services. However, in spite of this emergency situation, we have not yet read in the declarations of European institutions the most basic health and hygiene provision: access to water and sanitation for all.

If some European countries and regions have decided to suspend water cutoff, it is because there is a risk that water operators implement cutoff even in emergency situations, i.e. for families without incomes, occupations, roma and migrants settlements.

UN General Assembly Resolution 64/292 (July 28th, 2010) recognizes “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”. 10 years after, any State guaranteed this obligation to achieve the human right to water and sanitation (HRWS) at minimum level to guarantee the dignity of life.

But little has been done to guarantee the HRWS in Europe. In order to introduce the HRWS in European legislation, 1.884.790 european citizens signed the first European Citizens’ Initiative. Today 1 million people have no water access and 8 million people have no sanitation in Europe. It is time to act.

As European citizens claim and the normative development of HRWS indicates, water cutoff constitute a violation of the human right, even more dangerous for public health in the current context.

We therefore call national governments and European institutions for guaranteeing the human right to water and sanitation for all. This implies the adoption of various measures :

  • Water cutoff prohibition for all
  • Water and sanitation bill suspension during this crisis
  • Special attention to emergency situations such as non regulated supplies in occupations and migrant settlement
  • Guarantee of labour rights and hygiene conditions for water and sanitation workers
  • The cost of these measures shall not be borne by citizens but by the water and sanitation operators.

All these measures must be guaranteed through a specific mandatory regulation.

Such provisions are due in an emergency situation, but this is also the time for a systematic improvement of the pertinent normative, by the inclusion of these requirements in the water directives (in particular the Drinking Water Directive and the Water Frame Directive) and the introduction of the UN right to water in the European Charter. Drinking water supply and water resources management are consequently to be excluded from liberalizations and trade and investment agreements.

Effective implementation of the right to water and sanitation is an essential requirement of democracy, but it is also a beneficial and powerful tool for health and well-being of people, for preservation of the environment and, lastly, for economics. If not now, when?

European Water Movement


Lucio Gentili - gentili.lucio (at)
Dante Maschio - dante.maschio (at)

Red Agua Pública on World Water Day : Facing climate change, assuming the climate emergency

The Red Agua Pública (RAP) claims the need to assume the climate emergency and the determination to advance in the fight against climate change. The RAP reaffirms the demand to implement public, democratic, transparent and sustainable management models for the integral urban water cycle.

Every year, on 22 March, at the initiative of the United Nations, World Water Day is commemorated with the aim of drawing attention to problem of water through relevant issues. In 2020, the World Water Day has been focused on the relationship between climate change and water, and the impacts and the policies for adapting to climate change affect and are related to water directly.

There is a broad social and scientific consensus that the impacts of climate change on water resources will lead to substantial changes in the availability, quality and quantity of water for aquatic ecosystems and basic human needs. It can threat the effective enjoyment of the human rights to water and sanitation. Food sovereignty, human health, urban and rural settlements, energy production, industrial and economic development, employment and ecosystems are all dependent on water and therefore vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.


Climate Bonds Initiative must abandon its misguided attempt to greenwash hydropower


Civil Society Statement
December 10, 2019

On behalf of 276 civil society organizations from around the world, we are calling upon the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) to abandon the certification of destructive hydropower projects as climate-friendly. The proposed hydropower criteria developed by CBI and its technical working group fall far short of acceptable standards and practice, and their adoption would pose a significant threat to rivers and the communities and freshwater species that depend on them.

If adopted, the CBI’s hydropower criteria would risk opening up a funding source that could prove profitable to dam operators and institutional investors with Paris-friendly branding, while making no meaningful contribution to stemming the climate crisis. Beyond permitting projects with dubious value to attract a new line of financing, the greatest risk of the proposed criteria is channeling scarce climate dollars toward projects that fail to help us confront the challenge of preventing a 2oC scenario and that exert increased pressure on freshwater biodiversity and the functioning of our water cycle.


Coronavirus emergency: Italian government must ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Rome, 9th March 2020

It is clear that the measures taken by the Italian Government to contain the spread of Coronavirus pandemic are producing a state of exception and a substantial suspension of democracy.

We do not wish to embark on a reasoning about the appropriateness or necessity of these measures, but rather we want to highlight a contradiction that could have serious social and health repercussions.

In a situation where citizens are literally drowned out by prohibitions and prescriptions, in the collective and individual effort to mitigate the risk of contagion, nowhere have we read the most basic health and hygiene provision: access to water for all.

Throughout Italy, water service managers are implementing, with different nuances, the practice of cutting off water in the event of fraud or other irregularities such as those identified by the notorious Article 5 of Lupi Decree which denies access to essential public services, including water, to those who are forced to squatting for shelter.

This is a violation of a human right that is even more odious and dangerous for public health in the current context, in which the first mesure recalled by all is precisely hygiene.


EWM press release on the reuse of treated wastewater in Europe

Brussels, October 18, 2019

Since the publication of an EU action plan for the circular economy in 2015, the circular economy has been at the heart of the European Union's economic and environmental policies. As the reuse of treated wastewater is considered one of the most promising forms of circular economy, the European Commission has taken several measures to promote this practice in the European Union, including the drafting in 2018 of a Regulation on minimum requirements for water reuse. This Regulation was adopted in 2019 by the European Parliament and the Council with a very large number of amendments. In the coming weeks, negotiations in the trilogue are expected to lead to the adoption of the final version of the Regulation.

European Water Movement, most of whose members are confronted with projects to reuse treated wastewater on their territory, wishes to make several comments on the Regulation and more generally on the promotion of the reuse of treated wastewater, in particular for agricultural irrigation. It seems to us that every project must first be the subject of a study seriously assessing its impact on health, environmental and economic aspects. One of the European Commission's tasks should be to formalise this study as much as possible, in order to help Member States to implement only projects that are viable for these three aspects. The measures, including legislative measures taken so far by the European Commission on the reuse of treated wastewater, rather lead to simplification and weakening of the impact assessment, with a significant risk of implementing projects that go against some of the objectives of the circular economy.