Human Right to Water

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Water is a limited natural resource; it is a public good which is fundamental for human health and its life. It is a natural resource that should be used sensibly and should be preserved for the common good of all people and ecosystem on this earth. Water is also considered to have cultural significance beyond its health and environmental values, it is essential for securing a livelihood and enjoying cultural practices. In urban areas, due to increase in population, fresh water resources are affected by the overuse of the existing limited natural resources as well as the increasing pollution caused by urbanization which causes water scarcity in quantity as well as in quality.

“The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.”(WHO 2003, UN 2002)

The human right to water was first recognized with the adoption of General Comment No. 15 by the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2002.

The human right to water is defined as: “The right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use” (General Comment 15, 2002)

The human right to water is limited for personal and domestic uses; it doesn’t cover other uses of water so in allocation of water priority should be given to the water for personal and domestic uses.

Healthy ecosystems ensure the human right to water for the future generations. The human right approach to water, place the people need regarding water use as a first priority and promotes human-centered water resource development. Its main aim is to give power and freedom to people to in terms of water usage.

The principal elements of the right to water as mentioned by UN committee are availability, accessibility and quality of water. The water supply to people must be sufficient for personal and domestic uses. (UN Committee)

Clean water and sanitation are the most important drivers for the human development. They help in extending opportunity, enhancing dignity and also help in improving health and rising wealth.

The Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights calls for “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family including adequate food that includes water, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”(Article.11 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural right)

According to Peter H. Gleick 1996 “all people, whatever their stage or development and their social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs”(Peter H. Gleick 1996)

The drinking water right could be defined as “the right of every individual to have access to the amount of water required to meet his or her basic needs. This right covers access by households to drinking water supplies and waste-water treatment services managed by public or organizations.” (UN 2002 a)

Sanitation in human rights could be defined as: “A system for the collection, transport, treatment and disposal or reuse of human excreta and associated hygiene.”

In all areas of life everyone has the right to physical and economic access to sanitation which is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable, provides privacy and ensures dignity.

“An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water- related disease and provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements” (General Comment 15, 2002)

The right to water and sanitation must be assured without any type of discrimination.

The access to sufficient quality as well quantity is vital for human development. Today more than 1.2 billion people do not have access to an adequate water supply, and more than 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. Annually more than 2.4 million people die from water related disease due to lack of safe water supply; out of which most of them are children. (UN 2003, WHO 2003)

According to Len Abrams “The ‘Basic needs’ go beyond what we need to drink or ingest through our food for daily survival, rather it includes the need for water to maintain a basic standard of personal and domestic hygiene which is sufficient to maintain health.”(Len Abram 2001)

So basic needs not only mean to have access to adequate quantities of water but adequate water quality is also needed to maintain health.


WHO, 1993; 2002 defines domestic water as “the water used for all usual domestic purposes including consumption, bathing and food preparation”. (WHO 1993, WHO 2002)

It is important to distinguish quantities of water required for domestic purposes which primarily influence health and productivity, and quantities of water required for other purposes such as agriculture, industry, commerce, transport, energy and recreation. The requirements for domestic supply overall constitute a very minor component of total water withdrawals. (Gleick 1993, Gleick 1996)

Briefly, the domestic water is the water used for indoor and outdoor household purposes, all the things you do at your home such as drinking, food preparation, bathing, clothes and dish washing, teeth brushing, watering the yard and garden etc. are included in it.

The sub division of uses of domestic water is useful to understand the minimum quantities of domestic water required.

White et al. (1972) recommended three types of uses of domestic water.

1 Consumption includes drinking and cooking.

2 Hygiene include basic needs for personal and domestic cleanliness

3 Amenity uses of water includes car washing, lawn watering etc. (White et al. 1972)


Water is a basic human body’s nutrient. A minimum intake of water is required by human body to sustain life. Adverse health effects could occur due to severe dehydration which latter can be fatal.

According to White et al. 1972 and Gleick 1996, in developing countries a minimum of 3 liters per capita per day drinking water is required for adults in most situations.

Water provided for direct consumption should be of good quality that does not pose any significant risk to the human health. According to WHO, 1993, The quality of water that is consumed is an important transmission route for infectious diarrhoeal and other water borne diseases.


The water used for hygienic purposes exceeds consumption requirements because additional volume is required for maintaining personal hygiene through face and hand washing, bathing, teeth brushing, shaving and toilet sanitation.

The diseases which are linked to poor hygiene include diarrhoeal and other diseases that are transmitted through facial-oral route, skin and eye disease and diseases related to infestation.

According to Bradley 1977, there are four principal categories that relate to water.

* Water-borne diseases are caused through consumption of contaminated water such as diarrheal diseases, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, guinea worm.

* Water washed diseases are caused through the use of inadequate volume of personal hygiene such as diarrhoeal disease, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, trachoma, skin and eye infections.

* Water based- where an intermediate aquatic host is required such as guinea qorm, schistosomiasis

* Water related vectors are spread through insect vectors associated with water such as malaria, dengue fever.

Sufficient quantity of water is available for hygienic purposes because infectious diseases of the skin and trachoma are amongst the disease on which the water quantity would be expected to exert significant influence.

Amenity Uses of Water:

Amenity use includes lawn-watering, car washing etc. Amenity uses are not typically considered in relation to health aspects of water quantity. However amenity uses are linked to some benefits related to quality of life.

The first two categories ‘consumption’ and ‘hygiene’ are directly related to health. The third category ‘amenity’ in many cases, may not directly affect health.


According to UN 2003: “Per capita domestic water consumption is the amount of water consumed per person for the purpose of ingestion, hygiene, cooking, washing of utensils, and other household purposes including garden uses.” (UN 2003)

According to Len Abrams July 2001, The human right to water contains both freedom and power. Freedom includes “having the right to maintain access to existing water supplies which are necessary to fulfill the right to water, and the right to be free from interference, such as contamination of water supplies”. While the power includes “the right to a system of water supply and management that provide equality of opportunity for people to enjoy the right to water”. The elements of the right to water must be sufficient for human dignity, life and health. (Len Abrams 2001)

Water, that is consumed, must be safe. Drinking and using contaminated water can lead to infectious diseases that could be life threatening. Children bear the greatest health burden due to poor water and sanitation.

Household Water Requirements:

Household water consumptions represent a very small fraction of total water consumed, which is usually 5% of the total water consumption, but there is too much inequality in access to clean water and to safe sanitation services at household level.

Drinking Water Requirements:

The exact human drinking water need is highly individual, as it depends on number of conditions, such as diet, amount of physical work and environmental temperature. The reference daily intake for water is 3.7 liters per day for males greater than 18 years, and 2.7 liters for females greater than 18 years including water contained in food, beverages and drinking water. Food contributes 0.5 to 1 liter and the metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates produces another 0.25 to 0.4 liters which means that for men 2-3 liters of water and for women 1-2 liters of water should be taken in as fluid.

A person requires about 30 gallons of water per day for all uses e.g. bathing, cooking, washing etc. (1 gallon=4.5 liters). (Dr. Abdul Hafeez, 27 December 2008)

According to several studies, the minimum water consumption for survival is 2.5 l/c/d. This is for drinking need only.

“The daily human requirement of water for healthy living is 2.5 liters for drinking and 9 liters for hygiene per day. In the UK 8 liters water is spent on flushing the toilet, and 80 liters is used for taking a shower” (The guardian newspaper (2001)),


White, et al. (1972), 1.8-3.0, US EPA (1976), NAS (1977), 2.0.

Vinograd a (1966), Roth a (1968), WHO (1971), 2.5.

UBFHOA (1996), 3.15, NRC-NASb (1989), 2.0-4.5.

Saunders & Warford (1976), Gleick (1996), 5.0

Bathing Requirements:

Bathing is on the top of sanitation requirements. Usage varies greatly, depending on the technology used in houses and on various household activities.

Developed countries generally use 27 to 99 l/c/d averaging between 60 and 70 l/c/d for bathing. According to some studies, the minimum water needed for adequate bathing is 5 to 15 l/c/d and that required for showering is 15 to 25 l/c/d. (Gleick 1996)

An average American household spends about 15 to over 150 liters per capita depending on whether a regular or a navy shower or a full tub is used.

A review of range of studies in North America and Europe suggest average (not minimum) water used in industrialized nations for bathing to be about 70 per person per day with a range from 45 to 100 l/c/d. (Gleick 1996)

Water Requirement For Sanitation:

There is a direct linked between adequate provision of clean water, sanitation services and improved health. Sanitation requirement also depends upon type of technology installed in houses.

According to Hughes (1995), water used for toilets including leakages constitutes the bulk of water used at 33 percent of total domestic use.

According to US DNARCS 1997, Toilet flushing per use can consume from 15 to 26 l/c/d. In studies for U.S, toilet flushing for Metro Manila is estimated to comprise the biggest percentage of actual water usage requiring about 60 l/c/d or 28 percent of daily consumption per capita. Pit latrine requires the least amount of water of one to two liter per capita per day while pour and flush toilets consume 6 to 10 l/c/d. Thus overall sanitation requirements differ by technology and can even exceed to 75 l/c/d. (A.B Inocencio, J. E. Padilla, and E. P. Javier 1999)


Basically there are two ways through which we can get water to our homes.

* Public Supply of water

* Self Supplied water

If the water is delivered by a city/ country water department (or may be from a private company), then such water is called as “public supplied water”, and if people supply their own water through well or ground bore then such water is called “self supplied water”.

Domestic water demand is affected by number of factors including Population, household type and size, social and demographic factors, cultural values, education level in a society, gender, economic condition and different age groups within that society.

The actual demand for water for domestic purposes varies according to different conditions. In urban and well-off societies people may demand water for drinking, ablution, cooking, washing in kitchen, laundry, yard or garage washing, and gardening purposes.

Accessibility of Water means that water and water facilities should be accessible to every person with in that area without any discrimination. According to General Comment 15 2002, accessibility of water facilities could be divided into three overlapping dimensions.

* Physical accessibility: safe, sufficient, adequate, acceptable water must be accessible within the near area of each household. Adequate water facilities must be present within the physical reach of all sections of the population.

* Economic accessibility: water and water facilities must be affordable for all people. The direct and indirect charges of water must be affordable.

* Non-discrimination: All people including the most vulnerable should have equal accessibility to water facilities. (General Comment 2002)

Not only the quality but quantity of domestic water supplies has significant impacts on human health. According to various studies the quantity of water is often more important that the quality, this is particularly important for highly contaminated environments.


Unclean water is posing immeasurably greater threat to human security across much of the developing world. Almost half of all people in developing countries suffer from health problems caused by water and sanitation deficits.

According to Hinrichsen D, Robey B and Upadhyay U.D.1997 “Water borne diseases are ‘dirty-water diseases’ those caused by water that has been contaminated by human, animal, or chemical wastes. Worldwide, the lack of sanitary waste disposal and of clean water for drinking, cooking and washing is to blame for over 12 million deaths a year.” (Hinrichsen D, Robey B and Upadhyay U.D.1997)

Diarrheal diseases attributed to poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene account for 1.73 million deaths each year and contribute to over 54 million Disability Adjusted Life years, a total equivalent to 3.7% of the global burden of diseases. This places diarrheal disease due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene as the 6th highest burden of disease on global scale, a health burden that is largely preventable. (WHO 2002)

According to Pacific Institute Research report of Peter H.Gleick 2002, different estimates of water-related (diarrhoeal diseases only) mortality per year is given below:

    • (World Health Organization 2000): 2.2 million
    • (World Health Organization 1999): 2.3 million
    • (Water Dome 2002): more than 3 million
    • (World health Organization 1992): 4 million
    • (World Health Organization 1996): more than 5 million
    • (Hunter et al. 2000): more than 5 million
    • (UNDP 2002): more than 5 million
    • (Hinrichsen, 1997): 12 million

(Peter H. Gleick 2002)

The young children and infants are more vulnerable to diarrheal diseases than the adults. It is found that E-Coli pose serious threat to the health of children. Children’s immune system is not strong enough to protect them from an exposure which could result in serious illness and could even lead to death. The intake of water contaminated by human or animal excreta, especially feces, is one of the significant transmission channels of diarrheal pathogens.

“Lack of sanitary conditions contributes to about two billion human infections of diarrhea with about four million deaths per year, mostly among infants and young children”. (WHO,2002)

Water and sanitation both are responsible for a large number of deaths in children under five. Globally, diarrhoea kills more people than tuberculosis or malaria. Children deaths caused by diarrhea are five times greater than caused by HIV/ AIDS.

The only universal human right document in which adequate nutritious food and clean drinking water provision is specifically identified is the Convention on The Right of Child 1990.

According to Human Development Report 2006, out of the 60 million deaths in all over the world in 2004, the children deaths less than five years were 10.6 million which is found to be approximately 20% of the total deaths. (Human Development Repot 2006)

The deaths caused by diarrhoea in 2004 were six times greater than the average annual deaths in arms conflict for the 1990s. (HDR 2006)

The water which is required for each personal and domestic use should be safe. It means that it should be free from micro-organisms, chemical substances and radiological substances that pose severe threats to human health.

It is estimated that improving water and sanitation services could results in 17% reduction in the number of diarrhoea cases (an annual reduction of 1.8 billion cases globally) (WHO,2002)


Rawalpindi city is the head quarter of the Rawalpindi District.

The city district has two towns and 52 unions:

* Rawal Town

* Pothohar Town

The area chosen for this research is Rawal Town which has 46 union councils in it.

The city’s water supply and sanitation services are provided by the Rawalpindi Water and sanitation Agency (RWSA). At present, the area of the city served has a population of approximately 1128316. The population is increasing at a rate of 3.39% per anum.

Currently RWSA sources surface water from Khanpur and Rawal reservoirs, and ground water from tube wells. The RWSA shares this with cantonment and MES and Islamabad. The current RWSA shares are:

    • Rawal damà12 MGD (54,552 m³/day)
    • Khanpur Damà6 MGD (27,276 m³/day)
    • Tube wellsà24 MGD
    • Total WASA supplyà42 MGD

RWSA estimates future demand within its area of supply till 2010 at 51 MGD (231,846 m³/day).

In the Rawalpindi city’s vicinity, the quality of ground water is threatened by industrial and municipal wastes where as the ground water table is depleting due to excessive abstraction.

According to RWSA, within the service area 75% of the total population are provided with water either by piped service, from stand posts or regular tankers of drinking water.

Calculation of Water Supply Coverage

Total population in the service area 2005: 1,050,000

Number of HH connections (end of 2005): 83,243

Average number of persons per HH1: 6.64

Number of persons served with household connections: 552,734

Number of persons using a neighbor’s connection (10% of HH): 55,674

Persons served with Convenient Standpost services2: 52,000

4400 HH served with regular tanker service3: 29,216

Total: 689,624

In percent of total population in service area 4 : 66%

Out of 8 Punjab cities, Rawalpindi has the second highest water supply coverage. (Status Quo Report Rawalpindi, December 2006)


There is a total lack of reliable data. No proper or satisfactory data was made available for per capita water consumption in different UCs. Although water supply coverage is relatively high but it is in equivalent. Water is only provided for few hours in most of the households. Piped water coverage in different UCs is in sufficient. Water quality is very poor. Although filtration systems are installed but people are still getting contaminated water which results in various water borne diseases in children.


This research study was aimed to explore new information that may be added to already existing insufficient knowledge. It will provide information related to domestic water consumption in different UCs of Rawal town in Rawalpindi city. This research work or findings will be useful in planning, management and evaluation. It is also expected that this will be helpful in recognizing the problem areas and in initiating appropriate actions.


1. To find out per capita water consumption by activity based on household water usage such as drinking and hygienic requirements for Rawal town.

2. Finding out UC wise average, maximum, and minimum water consumption for each household activity

3. To estimate the total piped water coverage in Rawal Town

4. To ensure that people of Rawal town are getting water as a basic human right.



3.1 Study Area:

For “Determining Basic Household Water Consumption Pattern and Estimation of Piped Water Coverage of Rawal Town” 138 households were selected. In Rawalpindi city. Rawal town was chosen as a research area because most of the urban population lives here. According to 1998 Census the estimated population of this area was approximately 781927 while total housing units were 115748.

3.2 Strategy Used For Sampling:

Random sampling based on statistical criteria were taken for the sample size

Following s has been taken for calculating sample size based on statistical criteria.

P = 90% – 10% = 0.1

A = 5% = 0.05

Z = 1.96 for 95%

R = 100%


P àVariance,

A à desired precision,

Z àconfidence level, and

R àresponse Level

Using standard formula

The required sample size comes out through this formula was 138.

To find out no of houses to be surveyed in each UC, the sample size was divided by total no of UC.

= 138 / 46 = 3

Three houses were surveyed in each UC. The number of possible convenient starting points was selected and the houses were interviewed randomly. This method was easy because no household was pre-selected for sampling but finding UCs in highly urbanized area was difficult and time taken task. Rawalpindi map was collected through WASA to separate Rawal Town area from cantonment board area and to identify different areas covered in one UC.

3.3 Data Collection:

Primary data about the Rawalpindi city was collected through Census Department by interviewing the statistical officer. The data was collected in the form of booklet. The specific data related to Rawal Town was then extracted from it. 2009 Piped water coverage data was collected from Water and Sanitation Agency Rawalpindi.

3.4 Questionnaire:

The semi-structured questionnaire was designed to collect the data regarding per capita daily water usage at household level. The following variables were asked

* No of glasses drink in a day

* No of times toilet is used

* Bathing strategy (Bucket or shower bath)

* If bucket bath then no of buckets in one bath

* If shower bath then total time consumed in one bath

* No of times hand and face washing done

* No of times ablution is done

Different utensils such as glass, bucket, ewer, flush tank, shower, and internal plumbing size was asked for calculating the domestic water consumed.

Through shower size and internal plumbing size flow per minute was determined and water was calculated by multiplying it with time consumed.

Market survey was also conducted for water apprentices used in Rawalpindi. Observations are given below:

3.5 Market Survey For Water Apprentices Used In Rawal Pindi City

1. Bucket: Average size of buckets available in market is 30 liters with lid and 25 liters without lid.

2. Ewer: Average size of Ewer available in market is 3 liters

3. Cup/Bowl: Average size of cup is 1.5 liters.

4. Flush Tanks: Western flush tank stores up to 13 liters gallons of water and Eastern flush tank stores up to 15 liters gallons of water

Trend at Present Before 5 Years Before 10 Years
Western Eastern Western
Eastern Western Eastern
5 1 1
1 10 1

3.7 Observations:

Some of the information was collected on the basis of personal observation particularly for internal plumbing size and shower head size. Some of the house members had no idea about the sizes of their apprentices, so in this case market survey data was used. Averages were taken for washbasin tap’s flow/min and shower’s flow/min and then it was applied to whole data for analysis.

AREAS NAME Internal Plumbing Size Liters/Min Shower Head Size Liters/min
Fauji Colony, peerwadhai 0.5 3.5 3 6
Zia-ul-Haq Colony 0.5 3.75 2.5 6.5
Alim abad, Dhok Hassu 1 4 3.5 5.5
Mazhar Abad Hazara Colony 0.75 3.5 2.75 6
Dhok Najju 1 4 3.2 7
Dhok Mangtal 0.75 3 2.5 6
AmarPura 2 6 4 8
Khurram Colony 1.5 5 3.5 7.5
New Katarian 1 4 2.5 6.5
Mohalla Muslim abad 1 4 2 6
AVG 1 4.075 2.945 6.5

3.8 Method Used For Calculating Per Capita Domestic Water Consumption

Bucket size = 20 liters

Flush tank size = 13 liters

Bucket bowl size = 1 liter

Ewer Size = 2.5 liter

One drinking glass size = 0.25

Hand Shower for bath = 6 liters in 1 minutes

Internal plumbing pipe size = 1.5

Tap Flow/min = 4.11 liters

Single Person Data recorded at Sunday’s whole day (female) :

* Water drink = 9 glass

Water drinking for drinking during a day = 2.25 liters

* Toilet used in a day: 7 times

Water used in toilet in liters for each time= 2.5 + 7.5 + 2.5 + 2.5 + 2.5 + 2.5 + 2.5

Total water used in a toilet = 22.5 liters

* Flush Tank used in a day: 2 times

Total water flushes = 26 liters

* No of times hand washing done in a day: 8 times

Water used for hand washing in liters in a day for each time = 0.5 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0.5 + 1.5 + 2 + 1

Total water used for hand washing = 8.5 liters

* No of times teeth brushing done= 1 time

Water used for teeth brushing = 2 liters

* No of times face washing done: 3 times

Water used for face washing = 5 + 5 + 6 = 16 liters

* No of times bath is taken in a day=1 time

No of buckets used = 3

Water used for bath = 20 + 20 + 20 = 60 liters

* No of times ablution done: 4 times

Water used for ablution = 5.5 + 5 + 3.5 + 6 = 20 liters

Per Capita water consumed in a day = 2.25 + 22.5 + 26 + 8.5 + 2 + 16 + 60 + 20

= 157.25 liters

3.9 Hospitals Records:

PHC and Holy Family Hospital were visited to find out the general trend of diarrhea in children. Interviews were conducted with nurses and statistical officers for diarrheal records of children. Primary data was collected in the form of record sheets.

3.10 Data Processing and Analysis

MS Word 2007, MS Excel 2007 and Smardr

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