Making water central to climate action

Author: Kara Kelly

In March 2023, the United Nations hosted the first conference on water in 46 years. SHRI (Sustainability and Human Rights Initiative), housed in the Pulte Institute, was one of 200 groups invited to present its efforts to combat water insecurity.

Around 2 billion people live in areas where water is scarce. Yet water remains undervalued and mismanaged, and its role in tackling climate change, migration, and poverty needs greater acknowledgment — especially from industry actors.

Mining, for example, is a critical sector for the energy transition and often operates on Indigenous land in areas of high water scarcity. SHRI leverages the broader framework of the UN and the expertise of Notre Dame faculty and researchers across disciplines — engineering, global affairs, law, and business — to find solutions to promoting ethical stewardship practices.

SHRI’s approach involves communities, businesses, and governments working together to protect and manage this vital resource.

“There is growing momentum to push for improved, coordinated water management at the national and international levels,” Pulte Program Manager Lizzie Dolan said. “But what about the private sector? Without their buy-in, this crisis will only accelerate.”

The team, which includes Ellis A. Adams, Leonardo Bertassello, Diane Desierto, Dolan, Kevin Fink, Marc Mueller, Ray Offenheiser, and Tom Purekal, offers states and corporations a research-based approach, incorporating ethical and legal understandings of regulatory and operational processes to facilitate efforts to fulfill the human right to safe, clean water.