Water in the West - Session 2 - Reed Benson
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Water in the West - Session 2 - Reed Benson

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Strong Medicine: Considering a Greater Federal Role in Water Management

Strong Medicine: Considering a Greater Federal Role in Water Management

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Water in the West - Session 2 - Reed Benson Water in the West - Session 2 - Reed Benson Presentation Transcript

  • Reed D. Benson University of New Mexico School of Law
  • “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?
  • 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 View slide
  • 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 View slide
  • 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)
  • Water supply & demand in the Colorado River Basin, with projections for the future (USBR 2012, p. SR-36)
  • “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 -