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OCCC Reads 2015-2016: Water Matters: Chapter 17: Why We Need a Water Ethic

This guide provides a range of resources to use for OCCC Reads 2015-2016.

Chapter Summary


This is a fitting chapter for the end of the book because it allows the reader to think about current views of water and imagine a different way of solving problems. At first glance, this chapter is idealistic. The notion that we should all be nice to each other and to the environment seems naïve, at best. This chapter does, however, ask the questions that societies need to answer in order to implement some of the changes covered in other parts of this book. One major question in this chapter is whether animals and the ecosystems they live in are as important as human beings when it comes to the need for and the access to water. A good summary of the chapter is the quote taken from page 186:

An ethical society can no longer ignore the fact that water-management decisions have life-or-death consequences for other species. An ethically grounded water policy must begin with the premise that all people and all living things be given access to enough water to secure their survival before some get more than enough.

Why Use this Chapter?

Why Use this Chapter:

This chapter could be used in conjunction with many of the other chapters because it deals with big-picture ideas that might naturally come up when discussing specific ones.


Possible Use in the Classroom:

  • In a philosophy or ethics class, students could identify a current ethical philosophy that our American society operates under when it comes to water usage and conservation. In groups, students could apply different philosophies and imagine how water conservation could be different under those.
  • In a sociology or anthropology course, students could research and compare how different cultures view water and how those views reflect that culture’s values.
  • A law class or a political science class could look at the court cases mentioned in the essay and look at the legal history of water rights cases.
  • A math or science class could define what “enough” water is for each person and calculate how much water Americans need.
  • Any class could incorporate the ideas and ask the questions about who or what is more important: people, animals, or crops and agriculture.