The east African nation of Kenya is currently in the process of considering a new constitution, and one issue is the inclusion of a right to water. A harmonised draft constitution was prepared by a Committee of Experts and released for public comment on 17 November 2009, and it included a provision on water in Chapter 6, the Bill of Rights. Specifically, draft Section 66 provides that “Every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities.” The draft document is currently being reviewed by a Parliamentary Select Committee, after which the constitution will be sent to the full Parliament and then to the voters in approximately March 2010. It is uncertain whether the right to water will remain in the draft constitution through adoption, although there is some reason to believe it will be struck.
Several commentators have recently criticized the proposed California water bond for allowing private companies to own, operate and profit from water infrastructure paid for with bond proceeds. These criticisms have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and California Progress Report, and have been repeated in a number of other publications. The $11.14 billion water bond was adopted by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in SB2 (7x), and will be submitted to the voters at the statewide general election on November 2, 2010. I think these private profit criticisms are generally unfounded, but there are legitimate questions about public benefits from the bonds.
Coinciding with population growth and several years of drought in the southeastern United States, the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been litigating their respective rights in the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers in U.S. District Court in the case of In re Tri-State Water Rights Litigation. On 17 July 2009, Judge Magnuson issued a Memorandum and Order ruling that water supply is not an authorized purpose for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operation of Lake Lanier in northeastern Georgia, despite the fact that the reservoir is the largest source of water for metro Atlanta. The ruling has created significant uncertainty for the future of Atlanta regional water supplies and resulted in a rush of manpower (if not any water yet) to put out the ensuing legal and political fire.
As has become understood over the past several years, water resources are likely to be dramatically affected by climate change, and water projects themselves often contribute to climate change through emission of greenhouse gases, especially based on their energy demands. Water managers have become interested in climate change from both sides of the issue and have legitimately asked for a seat at the discussion table.