Notre Dame experts unveil new water and human rights framework at World Water Week

Author: Raleigh Kuipers

Notre Dame experts unveil new water and human rights framework at World Water Week

On August 24, 2022, legal, governance, and water experts from the University of Notre Dame, in partnership with BHP—an Australian-based multinational mining company—presented an actionable framework for the proactive implementation of the right to water during World Water Week

Presenters included Notre Dame faculty from the Keough School of Global Affairs and its Pulte Institute for Global Development, the Mendoza College of Business, the Law School, and the College of Engineering. Additionally, two representatives from BHP joined to answer questions. 

Their presentation “Water and Human Rights, Unlocked: A guide for water-intensive industries”  detailed the need for incorporating human rights into water stewardship strategies and introduced the team’s novel approach—a framework to achieve this aim in stakeholders’ projects and policies while engaging community voices and adapting to distinct contexts.  

To begin, Elizabeth Dolan, Innovation and Practice Research Associate at the Pulte Institute, introduced the presentation and provided context. 

“Environmental and social responses to today's biggest water challenges are incomplete, are insufficient, without consideration for the multidimensional human needs of water,” said Dolan. “Such needs do not end with water access or even water quality but include cultural and social uses of water and the sustainability of use so that future generations can enjoy the same activities. This consideration is not just a complement to environmental activism or water stewardship strategies, it is an integral part of them.” 

Next, Ray Offenheiser, William J. Pulte Director (on leave) of the Pulte Institute, introduced the team’s partnership with BHP and framed the context for the crisis of water management in industry. He emphasized the importance and innovation of the team’s framework and explained why the presenters feel it is the best strategy to meet water management challenges in a human-centered manner. Following these remarks, he directed a Q&A with Jed Youngs and Anne Dekker of BHP—a company that supported the development of the framework in question. 

Mark Muller, Assistant Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences Department, and Ellis Adams, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Policy, then went more in-depth about the framework; detailing the structure, importance, novelty, and applicability of the approach. 

Diane Desierto, Professor of Law and Global Affairs, and Georges Enderle, Professor Emeritus of International Business Ethics in the Mendoza College of Business, explained the legality and ethics of the framework. They highlighted the importance of this implementation strategy, the need for a human rights approach, and how the framework encourages ethical behavior in companies beyond existing implementation strategies. 

Lastly, Tom Purekal, Innovation and Practice Program Director at the Pulte Institute, gave closing remarks involving a call to action for businesses to explore a human rights component of their work. 

The presentation is based on work that the Pulte Institute, in partnership with faculty from Notre’s Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative and Keough School, is conducting to produce a groundbreaking right-based approach to water stewardship for state and non-state actors engaged in water management. The framework uniquely combines hydrological, political, and legal considerations into a series of questions that capture the right to water's multi-dimensionality and intersectionality with other critical social, cultural, and political rights. The goal of the final product is to equip enterprises and state actors with the appropriate strategy to make a preliminary assessment of the implementation of the right to water in any given industry operation and context in order to mitigate risk and prevent abuse. 

For more information regarding the project, please contact Elizabeth Dolan ( or visit the Pulte Institute website.


Originally published by Raleigh Kuipers at on September 26, 2022.