Talk:Water resources law

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Updated revision proposals[edit]

A few additional thoughts in response to a request. Please note I am in the middle of moving so I may not be able to respond quickly.

If I were tackling a rewrite today, I would think about doing the following to start:

New section: Jurisdiction

-Move in material from opening of Water law in the United States. -Revise opening of Water law in the United States to about a sentence that links to this article. Done.Ado2102 (talk) 22:09, 15 August 2015 (UTC)

New section: Ownership (or Theories of ownership)

-Overview of concepts of ownership of the water resource (i.e., naturally occurring water as a useful commodity subject to ownership by somebody, everybody, nobody, etc.) - particularly state ownership, public ownership, private ownership, and usage rights regimes

New section: Water rights

-Consider merging Water right#Types of water rights here. -Move the rest of Water right to other articles - e.g., water law in the United States for the long discussion of that jurisdiction, maybe copy the history stuff into the little history section in this article. -Redirect Water rights to Water resources law

Then I'd review a good text on water law to get some further ideas for sections. Check out the outline at Lewis & Clark law school. Law

Please be aware that water law can be extremely controversial. It also is the realm of very specialized lawyers who can be... nitpicky.

Like I said, I'll try to check in. Ado2102 (talk) 22:15, 16 July 2015 (UTC)

  • @Ado2102: these sound like excellent proposals. I have a background in water law as well, so let me know if I can help. When discussing water rights, I think it will be important to distinguish between the following general categories:
  1. Laws that regulate the acquisition of water (riparian rights, prior appropriation, prescription, etc.) . . . I'm not sure if this really needs to be a separate section than "theories of ownership"
  2. Laws that protect water quality (CWA, Porter-Cologne in California, etc.)
  3. Rights of the public to water and waterways (including a discussion of the public trust doctrine)
  4. Possibly a section about government limitations on water use (e.g. condemnation of water rights, takings under the Fifth Amendment, etc.)
This will certainly require quite a lot of work, but like I said, please let me know if I can help with this process in any way. -- Notecardforfree (talk) 17:31, 8 August 2015 (UTC)

Revision proposals[edit]

I am an attorney in the United States specializing in environmental law, and have worked extensively on water quality and water resources issues. This page is kind of a mess. Given the amount of work and discussion that has already gone into it, however, it seems appropriate to propose before acting:

The page should be renamed "Water resources law," with a redirect from "Water law", and a distinguish tag (which I've already added) for Water quality law. Water quality and water resources are two very distinct areas of law, and while water resources law significantly predates water quality law and thus is often just called "water law" (at least in the US), the two ought to be distinguished in the titles of the articles for clarity. See [environmental law]] and water quality law.

This page is rightly included as part of Template:Environmental Law. As with other pages under development in that series, I propose that the overarching purpose of this page should be to provide a neutral, general, broad-ranging, well-referenced, and well-linked introduction to the field of water resources law.

Important topics to cover:

The page should address surface water and ground water only. Wetlands regulation, coastal zone management, navigation, ocean law should be addressed separately. Dams should probably be addressed as necessary but hydropower is its own thing.

Ownership. Public/government ownership and private rights regimes. There are extensive articles on Riparian rights and Prior Appropriations (the two biggies in the US) in the common law pages. General statements of the distinctions should be enough, with links, and any other regimes noted generally by non-US contributors who know this stuff.

Use control and limitation laws, including use reduction efforts and in-stream ecological conservation.

Reclamation regimes, e.g. most of the Western US.

Maybe emerging issues of water trading.

The country-by-country needs editing and expansion, which should occur naturally once the page's other aspects are better pinned down. International issues should be addressed there.

That's enough for now I think.

Ado2102 (talk) 21:12, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

There is almost nothing about water law on this page...[edit]

Law is about rules and regulation, not about water development.... fix it someone please..... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Primacag (talkcontribs) 20:13, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

International Stubs[edit]

Since water law is legal nightmare and extremely site, geographic, specific; I move that we build these sub sections as stubs with Water Law as an umbrella portal. Water law is huge and a hot topic, well in the western US anyhow. It has a complex history and probably a 1,000 major and minor laws. I'd move that this page cover basic historic water law such as deeming ownership, and then have stubs for the other portions. Build the site with the expectation that others will fill in blanks at a latter date.FOK SD OA 20:19, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree with this idea. For example, the currently very limited section of the page focusing on European water law does little to reflect the immense complexity of this issue, which is clearly outside of the limit of a general page on water law. Unfortunately I am a water expert but no law expert. Nobody feel like explaining a brief background to European water law, and then going into detail on the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) or Drinking Water Directive (Directive 98/83/EC) on separate pages? Jimjamjak 14:45, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

Colorado is no more authoritative than any other Western state[edit]

The assertion: "Colorado water law is generally looked to as authority by other Western states which follow the prior appropriation doctrine" is misleading. Procedurally, Colorado's system for adjudicating water rights is unique, and therefore not likely to be cited in any other state's proceedings. Substantively, Colorado rulings may or may not be persuasive authority in another state's adjudications. They certainly are not binding authority outside Colorado.Bridgewater 22:27, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

More an historical matter than a matter of citing current decisions as authority. The appropriation doctrine originated in Colorado and was adopted in whole or part by other western states. The original Colorado decisions cite some California authority. User:Fred Bauder Talk 02:06, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

Different classes of water; different legal approaches[edit]

For the United States, I think that the organization needs to go like this. There is surface waters. There is streams, rivers and lakes and perhaps wetlands. There is percolating groundwater. These classifications are important for both reasonable use and appropriation states. Then one needs to decide whether one uses the reasonable use versus prior appropriation classification as the primary organizing principle, or alternatively, the classifications of waters. I've begun an effort to fill out these subjects which will grow over time. If there are folks out there also interested in this topic, feel free to chime in. I've begun by listing the basic topics that seem to organize water law. Which of these need their own subjects? How can they be effectively organized?

Riparian rights is a small part of the water law puzzle. Wharfing out/docks, right of access and so on. Now we have questions regarding the right to divert, drain or dam surface waters. We have rights relative to underground waters, and so on. A lot of work is wanted here......

Then we have a whole class of issues relating to regulations impacting water and property rights in water. There is a chain of law dealing with the rights of the United States in navigable waters and how that relates to both flood control, claims for damages arising from flood control operations, and so on. Jvonkorff (talk) 20:06, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Water Project law[edit]

I have started a section on water project law. If there is a law student out there who has a free weekend, with interest in this important area, you might offer up some examples of the various kinds of districts, governance of those districts, and financing methods. I think what is wanted is a list of the basic mechanisms, followed by a citation to a case illustrating that mechanism, from a particular state that follows that paradigm.

Jvonkorff (talk) 21:28, 20 September 2008 (UTC)


The state of Maryland has really interesting water laws. Does anyone know much of this? I think it would be interesting to add to this page. Cazort (talk) 15:35, 19 March 2009 (UTC)


The historical background is nicely written but cites nary a source. (talk) 18:32, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Certainly I could have done better here. Note above that my ambiguity is still confusing readers. User:Fred Bauder Talk 02:11, 29 May 2012 (UTC)