But perhaps what we should have is a water ethic. This was raised the other day by one of my colleagues. She specifically was thinking of something similar to Aldo Leopold's land ethic, promulgated over 60 years ago:
Water ethic? What would that look like?
From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
2 a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values <the present-day materialistic ethic> <an old-fashioned work ethic> —often used in plural but singular or plural in construction <an elaborate ethics> <Christian ethics> b plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics> c : a guiding philosophy d : a consciousness of moral importance <forge a conservation ethic>
I like each definition, but A and C especially resonate with me.
So how would we construct a water ethic? Here is the abstract from a paper (pdf below) by Adrian C. Armstrong, "Further Ideas Toward a Water Ethic", published in Water Alternatives:
ABSTRACT: This essay expands the water ethic of Armstrong (2007) by identifying four main functions of water: as a source of life, as a land-forming element, as a habitat, and as a mover of materials (i.e., a geomorphologival agent).It is suggested that from these functions, four guiding principles can then be derived: 1) in allocating water, human beings allocate life potential; 2) altering water fluxes affects the function of a whole system; 3) water is a (fundamental) component of the earth system in its own right; 4) water fluxes are essential for the continued function and maintenance of both biological and non‐biological systems.
From these a full ethical evaluation of any proposed action could be based on an environmental axis as well as on the economic axis in decision making. Such full analyses can often be reduced in practice to a series of 'rules of thumb' for everyday decisions. Some candidate rules are suggested. Focusing on practical decision making and action on the function of water offers a potential way of implementing the Leopold 'land ethic'.
Upshot: maybe we are asking the wrong question.
More wondrous things to ponder.
Thanks, Cynthia."A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land." -- Aldo Leopold, 1949