Indigenous water rights and climate change

Indigenous peoples continue to take action to protect their rights and access to clean water worldwide. Indigenous water rights are a crucial component to a global response to climate change.

Indigenous water management practices help to secure Indigenous water rights in the face of climate change effects. For example, in Ethiopia, the wells (Ella) in Borana and the pond (Harta) in Konso, have been managed by Indigenous communities for over five centuries. In addition, the Kankanaey people of the Philippines facilitate equitable distribution of water for agricultural irrigation through traditional water-sharing rituals.

Water is a human right and is recognized as a such by the United Nations International Covenant Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). According to the ICESCR, “Nations or “States” are expected to “provide resources for Indigenous peoples to design, deliver, and control their access to water.” Yet, at any given time, boiled water advisories for First Nations across Canada living on reserves are far too common an occurrence; the call for the governments to be held accountable continues.

The COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference is being hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy, from October 31 to November 12 presents another opportunity for the Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform (LCIPP) to review the gains made and the challenges that remain to include the innovations of Indigenous peoples in protecting water rights and mitigating and adapting to climate change worldwide.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Anastasia Taioglou, Unsplash)