April 28, 2023 ǀ The court in Hague, Netherlands, found that it is not unlawful towards children, if the water supply in their homes is cut off. In the Netherlands more than 500 families are disconnected due to non-payment each year. Under Dutch law, those affected must receive a minimum allocation of three litres per person per day.
In April 2011, the Human Rights Council declared the access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right: a right to life and to human dignity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met and few health concerns arise.  But what happens when a family can’t pay the bills? The European members handle the issue differently.
Cutting of water supply
In the Netherlands households are disconnected due to non-payment. Under Dutch law, anyone who is cut off from water is to receive a minimum allocation of three litres of water per person per day. According to water companies, usually a debt repayment plan is agreed on and the supply is reconnected within 24 hours.
Defence for Childern and Dutch human rights lawyers association NJCM sued two water companies and the Dutch government for cutting of families. According to them, childern have the right to clean water under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights. But the court in Hague found that while a particular child’s right to clean water might be infringed if cut off from water, ‘in general, this is not unlawful towards children’.  The two organisations appealed the ruling.
Pedro Arrojo Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, said: “All my respect to the judge but as UN special rapporteur on the human rights of drinking water and sanitation I don’t agree with this decision. Of course each country must debate with society what is the basic amount of water that everybody needs.”
Paying the bill or reducing the pressure
While it is illegal to cut off the water in France, the United Kingdom, Austria and other European countries, the local government in Germany usually pays the bill. In Hungary, pressure may be reduced, but at least 50 litres of water per person per day are supplied.More information: Right2water More information: Drinking Water Directiv