Water in the West - Session 2 - Reed Benson

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Strong Medicine: Considering a Greater Federal Role in Water Management

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Water in the West - Session 2 - Reed Benson

  1. 1. Reed D. Benson University of New Mexico School of Law
  2. 2. “Transformation” is not easily done Western state water law based on the prior appropriation doctrine is mostly: - backward-looking - rather rigid - slow to change Can law nonetheless help transform water management in the West?
  3. 3. In the past century, 2 water law/policy developments were transformational:  the Reclamation program  the Clean Water Act (CWA) Federal laws greatly expanded the role of the national gov’t regarding water The programs certainly differ, but both are a mix of federal mandates and $$$ -e.g. $89B under CWA grant/loan funds
  4. 4. Like the reclamation laws and the CWA, a new federal water law should include:  standards or requirements that reflect and promote national policy goals  funding that helps ensure tangible progress toward meeting those goals To what ends? Stronger management, better incentives, greater investment - pricing may be a crucial element
  5. 5. Why federal? - Mixed bag of CWA success shows the value of federal mandates & oversight - Interstate compacts show that federal carrots and sticks are often crucial Why not federal? - states play key roles under federal law (e.g. project water rights, CWA actions) - federal law allows for local innovation (e.g. water & endangered species RIPs)
  6. 6. Water supply & demand in the Colorado River Basin, with projections for the future (USBR 2012, p. SR-36)
  7. 7. “As with any scarce resource, increasing demands on a dwindling supply bring calls for public protection and management. No resource is more vital than water.” Jon Kyl, 1982, Writing on Arizona’s federally motivated groundwater law of 1980 -

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