LAW 692

Water Law

Environmental Law, Public Interest Law

Water law presents a unique mix of federal and state regulatory regimes over a resource that is sometimes scarce, sometimes abundant, and always essential to life. In this course, we will consider different regimes for water rights, including prior appropriation, riparian and groundwater. We will also look at the public trust doctrine, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Although we will consider water law at a national level, most water law is managed at the state level and we will focus on the western United States, particularly California. Our objective will be to not just learn how water has been regulated over time but also to develop an understanding of the benefits and challenges of the various rights regimes in the climate change era of increasing droughts and floods.

Among the specific topics to be discussed are: common-law riparianism and its modern varieties; the prior appropriation doctrine, permit systems, and the loss of appropriative rights; water markets; groundwater doctrines; water organizations both public and private; federal reclamation; federalism conflicts, and interstate conflicts, with particular attention to the Law of the Colorado River; water pollution; and drinking water.

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