For The Record: Free Water in Clubs is a Human Right

Words by: Ben Raven
Posted: 4/4/18 14:10

A recent Ibiza focussed art collaboration from water brand, Love Water.

Why time may soon be up for Ibizan clubs that overcharge for water.

Journalists love April Fool’s Day. Many treat it like an art form and this year’s crop of bogus articles included stories on Burger King’s new chocolate Whopper, T Mobile’s new smartshoe phone and a new avocado flavoured Coca Cola drink, all of course, entirely false. Mixmag chose a subject a little closer to home with a spoof story entitled ‘Ibiza Clubs Are Now Bound By Law to GIve Out Free Water.’ The first three paragraphs seem legit. But the fourth soon descends into Wunderground territory by introducing a quote from The City Of Ibiza Council’s Department of Hydration Aiga Mentir who says: “Pill head tourists paying extortionate prices for basic necessities like water was positive for our economy, which will now take a hit.”

This is of course plainly nonsense on many levels most notably the idea that city councils might have a Department of Hydration and that their spokesperson might refer to tourists as “pill heads.”

As good April Fool’s gags go, the punchline is served way too soon. But as an idea, the headline is actually not that far from reality.

The UN recognised the right to water in 2010 in a declaration that stated that “clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.” Since then a water rights stone has been rolling around the world’s political community and gathering momentum. In 2018, a UN charge to recognise the human right to a healthy environment looks likely to be similarly successful and with it, further stating the case for a right to water.

While the crux of the issue is the fact that 844 million people still don’t have access to clean water, the declaration is having a knock on effect on consumer rights. In Europe, that extends to the service industry, where campaigners argue that licensed establishments such as restaurants or bars should provide drinking water for free.

In the UK licensed establishments such as bars, restaurants or clubs that serve alcohol are obliged by law to provide free drinking water. Those premises that do not serve alcohol can apply a service charge for providing a glass to accommodate your tap water but even this most stingiest of laws is under threat as environmental groups are currently making headway in calling for legislation that requires non alcohol licensed premises to provide free drinking water in a bid to cut down on the unnecessary manufacturing of plastic water bottles.

As pollution in the world’s oceans rises to alarming levels, the war on plastic bottles is becoming an increasingly dominant issue. The EU recently announced a funding initiative to research ways to cut down on our overuse of plastics. The budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, even claimed that a tax on plastics could help fill the €13 billion hole in its budget left by Brexit. 

In Ibiza however, as anyone who’s ever looked despairingly at their change from a round of drinks on a rave will agree, surviving a night without water in a superclub while on a combination of drugs and alcohol is a harsh fact of life. On an island driven by excess, charging €12 is an insanely dangerous practice and the need for free drinking water in clubs is obscured by the island’s murky dealings with club casualties.

A civil rights demonstration in Detroit makes the case for water rights.

I have heard many dark stories over the years of how superclubs on the island deal with drug incidents. In the 2000s, some clubs were rumoured to be dumping casualties outside of the bounds of their properties to avoid police prosecution. 58 drug deaths were recorded on the island between 2010 and 2016 according to an EU funded research research project but I have heard stories from the families of doctors that work in the Can Misses hospital emergency room that drug casualties are far more common than the statistics that have been published. Clubs it seems, can get away with charging for water because the drug casualty stats don’t tally with reality.

That sadly doesn’t look like changing anytime soon but as the pressure on the EU to wholeheartedly endorse the UN’s declaration on access to water increases, time may finally be up for Ibiza’s free water denying clubs.

A recent survey by the EUropean human rights group "Right2Water", gathered 1.6 million signatures in support of improving access to safe drinking water. The EU responded in February with proposed legislation to improve the access to and quality of drinking water.

Water is clearly a big issue in the EU. But as the idea of it being an essential human right reaches critical mass, it’s likely that clubs in the EU will be obliged to provide free drinking water as they are in the UK. This maybe more difficult to enforce in Ibiza as tap water is not as safe to drink as other member states due to the particular environmental challenges the island faces. However it is likely clubs in Ibiza will be forced to concede defeat on the issue of overcharging for water in some way or another.

Perhaps giving the clubbers what they want could be a masterstroke for surviving what looks likely to be another difficult season for the island’s promoters? With big name parties like Hyte and Mosaic missing from this year’s crop of openings, the island is bracing itself for another turbulent Summer and clubs like Hï Ibiza have already been exploring strategies such as reduced early bird tickets to appease budget conscious ravers. Are any of the island’s clubs brave enough to put affordable water on their marketing strategy list also?

For more Ibiza Voice Trend and Opinion, click here. 


Roberto Capuano
Politics Of Dancing
Ralph Lawson