Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.


248 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7710-1072-9
DDC 333.91




Reviewed by Melanie St-Onge


Prolific author and Canadian activist Maude Barlow has been sounding the water movement clarion for years. Blue Covenant is her latest attempt at focusing some of the growing climate change awareness to the global water crisis. In this extensively documented work, Barlow posits that we are stewards of the common heritage that is water. Hard-hitting facts, such as the disturbing statistics that every 8 seconds a child dies from drinking contaminated water and that in a Mumbai slum, one toilet serves 5,440 people, serve to underscore what Barlow calls our “moral and ecological imperative” to rectify the situation.


From the privatization of water services in developing countries to a lack of conservation measures worldwide, Barlow presents a scathing indictment of the “corporate water cartel” and the impotent governments who have allowed this most important resource to be distributed only to those who can afford to pay rather than to those who are in dire need.


Blue Covenant contains an astounding, sometimes overwhelming, amount of statistics and contextual information, but it is also deeply grounded in what Barlow perceives as an ethical issue. As a relatively water-rich country, Canada must become an active participant in the water justice movement. Barlow outlines several ways in which governments and policy-makers can contribute to the solution, which includes a change in international law so that water is recognized as a human right. Already, tensions are growing between water-starved nations such as China and India, who share significant bodies of water. The creation of an international covenant, or collective agreement, is the key to resolving this crisis before it escalates to actual conflict.


The true value of this work comes from its Canadian content. While it may be easy to turn a blind eye to drought-addled foreign countries, it is not so easy to ignore the increasing toxicity of the Great Lakes or the gargantuan amount of water used every day by the Alberta tar sands. Blue Covenant is a disconcerting but necessary look at a resource Canadians take for granted but to which we may not have unlimited access for much longer.


Barlow, Maude., “Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,