EGU24-6351, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Hydropower Dams and the Human Right to Water: an Operational Transdisciplinary Assessment Framework

Julie Faure1, Marc Muller1, Leonardo Bertassello2, Elizabeth Dolan2, Ellis Adams2, Rahman Sulaimanov2, Diane Desierto2, Portia Chigbu2, and Jonathan Pabillore2
Julie Faure et al.
  • 1Eawag, Switzerland
  • 2University of Notre Dame, USA

There is growing urgency for actionable and standardized approach to human rights assessments of hydropower dam constructions and operations that incorporates multiple dimensions of the right to water. Yet, the water issues faced by affected communities are determined by local contexts and therefore challenging to map to universal norms like human rights in a way that is both objective and transferrable. Conversely, the human right to water extends beyond the narrow dimensions of water access and availability and also includes cross cutting obligations (e.g, self-determination and non-discrimination) and inter-related rights (e.g., rights to health, healthy environment and livelihood). The nearly universal scope of human rights with respect to water makes them challenging to apply without an operational framework to systematically diagnose challenges to their implementation in practical settings. The framework that we present addresses both challenges with a procedure to systematically diagnose multiple key dimensions of inadequate water access (e.g, green, blue and economic water scarcity or excess) and governance failures (e.g., power asymmetry or threats to hydrosocial relations). The framework then maps the diagnosed issues to specific challenges to implementation of human rights that account for their multi-dimensional nature. This work is a unique transdisciplinary collaboration between water intensive industries and experts from the fields of hydrology, governance, and human rights law. We apply the framework to representative international hydropower cases (e.g., the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in Cambodia, the Muskrat Falls Dam in Canada) to synthesize key insights on the relationship between human rights and the impacts of hydropower projects on water security and governance.

How to cite: Faure, J., Muller, M., Bertassello, L., Dolan, E., Adams, E., Sulaimanov, R., Desierto, D., Chigbu, P., and Pabillore, J.: Hydropower Dams and the Human Right to Water: an Operational Transdisciplinary Assessment Framework, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-6351,, 2024.