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Water Ethics and Water Resource Management

Jie Liu, Amarbayasgalan Dorjderem, Jinhua Fu, Xiaohui Lei, Huajie Liu, Darryl Macer, Qingju Qiao, Amy Sun, Keisuke Tachiyama, Lilin Yu and Yi Zheng. 2011. Water Ethics and Water Resource Management. Bangkok, Regional Unit for Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific (RUSHSAP), UNESCO Bangkok. v + 73 pp.

ISBN 978-92-9223-358-7 (Print version)
ISBN 978-92-9223-359-4 (Electronic version)


Meetings of the Working Group were held: First Joint UNESCO-Beijing University Conference on Water Ethics, November 2007, Peking University, Beijing, China; The Second Joint UNESCO-Beijing University Conference on Water Ethics, 22-23 October 2008, Peking University, Beijing, China[Meeting report (pdf file)].

The following is a list of current working group participants: 

Dr. Jie Liu (chair): jliu[at]
Dr. Chunmiao Zheng: czheng[at]
Dr. Jayapaul Azariah: jazariah[at]
Remmon E. Barbaza, Ph.D.: rbarbaza[at]
Professor Nesy Daniel: nesy.daniel[at]
Mr. Amarbayasglaan Dorjderem: a.dorjderem[at] 
Dr. Dai Erfu: daief[at]
Dr. John Fien: john.fien[at]
Dr. Fukuya Iino: Iino[at]
Professor Fakrul Islam: hiraharati[at]
Professor Qingju Qiao:
Dr. Sultan Ismail: sultanismail[at]
Dr. Darryl Macer: d.macer[at]
Dr. Engelbert C. Pasag: engelmo[at]
Dr. Salil Sen: salil.sen[at]
Dr. Edward H. Spence: E.H.Spence[at]
Dr. Amy Cha-Tien Sun: acsun[at]
Mr. Keisuke Tachiyama: keisuke.tachiyama[at]
Dr. Khin Ni Ni Thein: knnthein[at]
Dr. Susan Vize: s.vize[at]
Weiping Wang: stu_wangwp[at]
Jeremy Schmidt, Ph.D: jschmi7[at] 
Ms. Florence Lee Ii Li: tulip1711337[at]

If interested in joining the working group, or participating in a meeting, please send an email to: and   



Executive Summary

This report examines ethical issues associated with water resource utilization and management, including its uses in energy and other domains. Under the “Ethics and Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific” (ECCAP) project, the Water Ethics working group has compiled a report with some case studies highlighting different ethical issues associated with water resource utilization and management. The report systematically discusses how water ethics can make a difference to water related practices and provides a cross-cultural review of the issues. The report reveals gaps in existing knowledge to researchers, policy makers and funders of research, which could be used to examine linkages between research and policy making, and presents areas of policy options to governments.

The work also feeds into considerations of the ethics of climate change that are being made by the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). The work builds upon some earlier COMEST reflections on water ethics and a growing body of discussion on the topics of water ethics. The ECCAP project1 calls for developing dialogues within each participating country and between countries on the results of research, future research needs, policy lessons and policy recommendations in regard to the ethical issues of energy-related technologies and related environmental and human security issues. The conclusions of this report are applicable to all human uses of water, not only those related to direct use in energy production, or indirect use such as in energy intensive agricultural production systems.

Water is the most essential substance upon which all life depends. Water is a non-renewable resource, though it can be recycled. Climate change, rapid industrialization and urbanization, continuing population growth and mismanagement of water resources cause unprecedented water stresses. The access and use of water by humans and ecosystems is discussed in this report. Water is at the heart of many religions and culture. Cultural traditions, indigenous practices and societal values determine how people perceive and manage water, and provide useful references for water ethics construction. The report examines some possible ethical principles to resolve moral dilemmas involving water. Existing problems in current water management practices are discussed in light of these principles. Transformation of human water ethics has the potential to be far more effective, cheaper and acceptable than some existing means of “regulation”, but transformation of personal and societal ethics need time because the changes to ethical values are slow.

Policy options are discussed with some examples, that are further explored in the appendices which include four case studies conducted by the members of the working group from perspectives of different fields, and they illustrate both theory and practical application of the ideas in the report more concretely. These include: The Need for a More Efficient Aquaculture Industry; Computer-Aided, Community-Based Water Planning: Gila-San Francisco Decision Support Tool; The South-to-North Water Diversion Project in China; A Review on Chinese Water Ethics.

The construction of water ethics needs joint efforts and interdisciplinary collaboration at all levels. By following certain general principles, adopting scientific methods and tools, arousing experts, stakeholders and decision makers’ responsibility, and conducting ethical education for young people, the construction of ethically acceptable water utilization and management system can be expected to occur in the near future.



                                                 This page was last updated on 23 August 2011