Slovenia has become the first European country to add water as a fundamental right into its constitution.

“Everyone has the right to drinkable water,” Slovenia’s constitution now says. “Water resources represent a public good that is managed by the state. Water resources are primary and durably used to supply citizens with potable water and households with water and, in this sense, are not a market commodity.”

Confluence of the Big Božna and Little Božna rivers in Slovenia. Image credits: Doremo

Slovenia, a mountainous and water-rich country is the first EU nation to ratify water as a fundamental right, though according to Rampedre (the online Permanent World Report on the Right to Water) 15 other countries across the world have already done this. The law is aimed at the 12,000 Roma people living inside the country, many of which don’t have access to potable water. Addressing this issue, Amnesty International highlighted the conditions in which these people often live.

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“Many Roma are … denied even minimum levels of access to water and sanitation,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The centre-left prime minister, Miro Cerar has strongly pushed forth this law, saying that while the country has no water problems now, things might change in the future and the country should be prepared to deal with such issues.

“Slovenian water has very good quality and, because of its value, in the future it will certainly be the target of foreign countries and international corporations’ appetites. As it will gradually become a more valuable commodity in the future, pressure over it will increase and we must not give in,” Cerar said.

But other politicians in the country have argued that this new law changes nothing and it’s just a way to gather more votes and the centre-right opposition Slovenian Democratic party (SDS) abstained from the vote. But regardless of any political games, water should be a fundamental right and I’m glad countries are taking necessary steps to ensure water availability. Overpopulation and over-usage of resources will certainly create stress on existing water resources. Add in some global warming, and the need for ensuring water access becomes self-evident. A 2014 MIT study reads:

“Population growth and increasing social pressures on global water resources have required communities around the globe to focus on the future of water availability. Global climate change is expected to further exacerbate the demands on water-stressed regions.”

Climate change is expected to have a greater impact on water resources in developed countries. This is because, for instance, changes in precipitation patterns would limit water supplies needed for irrigation. So laws like this might actually be really important in future times.