Rhett Larson (Arizona State U. College of Law ) has posted Holy Water and Human Rights: Indigenous Peoples’ Religious Rights Claims to Water Resources. The abstract follows.
Water, perhaps more than any other natural resource, has profound religious meaning: in ceremonial uses, as a spiritual symbol, and as an object of worship. The scarcity of legal scholarship regarding the nexus between religious rights and water law is therefore curious. This paper examines that nexus and its implications in the context of indigenous peoples and international law. The international human right to water has developed as an implicit right necessary to securing jurisprudentially underdeveloped positive rights explicitly provided for under international human rights covenants, such as the right to a standard of living, but can also be built upon the foundation of broadly accepted, jurisprudentially mature civil rights, like the freedom of religion. Grounding the human right to water on such a foundation has important implications for indigenous peoples’ religious-rights-based claims to water resources. The stability of such claims depends upon effective frameworks within which international tribunals can adjudicate such claims. Ultimately, this Article evaluates the development of the international human right to water, discusses the nexus of that right with religious rights in the context of indigenous peoples’ water-resource claims, and proposes frameworks for evaluating those claims. The formulation and interpretation of water law requires greater consideration of the cultural meaning of water to promote cooperation within the watershed and to protect natural and cultural resources.