About Us

Mission: Our Water Commons seeks to transform societal decision making for water stewardship, towards participatory, democratic, community-centered systems that value equity and sustainability as a strategy. We are committed to working with public sector agencies and civil society organizations for improved public water delivery and watershed management. Our work is based on a set of ten water commons principles.

History: Our Water Commons (OWC) was formed as a collaborative program of On the Commons, an organization formed in 2001 to advance commons-based solutions that will help achieve environmental restoration, social justice, global cooperation and a brighter future for all. OWC operates as a network of academics, practitioners and activists and works through alliances with water operators, municipalities, public agencies, environmental organizations, community groups and human rights organizations.

Water Commons Principles

We base our work on the following principles:

  1. Affirm water as a commons, that is, it belongs to everyone and no one, passed onto future generations in sufficient volume and quality
  2. Ensure that the earth and all of its ecosystems enjoy rights to water for their survival – indeed it is on those ecosystems that human life depends
  3. Conserve water as society’s first course of action (enforced by law), including suggesting drastic changes to industrial and agricultural practices
  4. Treat watersheds – the source of water - as a common as well and not simply the water itself
  5. Encourage local, community management while legally binding communities to respect upstream and downstream neighbors’ rights
  6. Forge or affirm trans-boundary agreements that respect water sovereignty for both communities and nations
  7. Provide water as a basic principle of justice, not as an act of charity
  8. Ensure public delivery and fair pricing of water
  9. Promote enshrining the right to water in nation-state constitutions, laws and a UN covenant
  10. Employ innovative legal tools to protect water and manage water as a commons, including through public and community trusts

About “On The Commons”

The commons is a new way to express a very old idea – that some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good of all. The commons are the things that we inherit and create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come. The commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and creative works. On the Commons (formerly Tomales Bay Institute) is a network of citizens and organizations exploring new ways to achieve social justice, environmental harmony and democratic participation at all levels of society. The work of On the Commons takes many forms – from introducing innovative public policies and economic initiatives to supporting grassroots local action. We focus on a wide range of issues, which reach deep into the realms of ecology, economics, technology, politics, education, the arts and day-to-day life in diverse communities.

Our Water Commons is coordinated by Daniel Moss, with over 30 years of experience in natural resource management in Latin America and an urban planning degree from MIT.