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Ethical issues in water use and sustainability

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Abstract:

The modern debate on water use and sustainability starts with the assumption that protecting the water environment is an ethical imperative, but rarely questions the basis for this viewpoint. This paper aims to identify some of the bases that could underlie such a position, seeking to locate value in the natural world beyond anthropocentric utilitarianism. Only when there is a clear basis for this discussion is it possible to discuss and resolve issues and conflicts that arise in the management of water: between present and future users, between human and non-human users, or between competing human users. We then attempt to develop a ‘water ethic’, parallel to the famous ‘land ethic’ of Aldo Leopold, in which we see water as the centre of the web of life in the landscape. Protecting water, its quality and its availability, for all present and future users, is one touchstone for the evaluation of environmental action and policy.

Keywords: Water Framework Directive; ethics; water sustainability; water use

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2006.00657.x

Affiliations: Entec UK, 130 Aztec West, Bristol BS32 4UB, Email: Armsa@entecuk.co.uk

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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