The UN General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a "human right" in a resolution that more than 40 countries including the United States did not support.
The resolution adopted by the 192-member world body expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation.
UN anti-poverty goals call for the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation to be cut in half by 2015.
The non-binding resolution, sponsored by Bolivia, was approved by a vote of 122-0 with 41 abstentions including the United States and many Western nations though Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and Norway supported it.
Bolivia's representative said many rights have been recognised including the rights to health, life, and education. He said the Bolivian government introduced a resolution on the right to adequate water and sanitation because contaminated water causes more than 3.5 million deaths every year - more than any war continues here
"This is a historic day for the world, a big step in the right direction" toward the distant goal of a water treaty, Canada's leading water activist Maude Barlow told AFP.
"It is going to mean a huge amount to our movement around the world, to local community groups fighting for water rights, water justice against governments, corporations which are not respecting their rights."
Barlow, a former senior adviser to the UN General Assembly on the water issue, said some wealthy countries abstained out of fear "that they are going to be asked to pay the price tag" or that the resolution would give "tools to their own people to use against them."
She welcomed the fact that major countries such as China, Russia, Germany, France, Spain and Brazil backed the resolution.
Of her country's abstention, she said: "We are terribly disappointed."
She said Canada's conservative government wants the right to sell water.
"They know that if they say it is a human right it will be a contradiction to want to turn it into a commodity," she added. continues here
So there you go. Surprised? Nah, didn't think so....