10 Water Commons Principles

Through our co-creative fieldwork, On the Commons seeks to transform society’s decisionmaking about water toward participatory, democratic, community-centered systems that value equity and sustainability as core values. Our work is based on the following ten water commons principles.


1.) Affirm water as a commons. It belongs to everyone and to no one exclusively, and must be passed on to future generations in sufficient volume and quality.

2.) Ensure that the earth and all of its ecosystems enjoy rights to water for their survival. Indeed, those ecosystems make human life possible.

3.) Conserve water as a social priority (enforced by law), including advocacy of drastic changes to industrial and agricultural practices.

4.) Treat watersheds, the source of our water, as a commons, as well as the water itself.

5.) Encourage local, community management of water while legally requiring users to respect upstream and downstream neighbors’ rights.

6.) Create or reaffirm trans-boundary agreements that respect water sovereignty for all communities and nations.

7.) Provide everyone with water as a basic principle of justice, not as an act of charity.

8.) Ensure public delivery and fair pricing of water.

9.) Promote the right to water as a principle in national constitutions, laws, and a UN covenant.

10.) Employ innovative legal tools to protect water and manage water as a commons, including public and community trusts.

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