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Volume 36, Issue 4 — April 2006


Sustainable Water Management in Australia, Europe, and the United States

by Karen Hussey

Editors' Summary: The protection and management of freshwater resources is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. In September 2005, water specialists from Australia, Europe, and the United States met at an international symposium hosted by the Australian National University to debate the challenges of sustainable water management in developed economies and to critique the various strategies and reforms introduced in each region to address them. This special edition of the Environmental Law Reporter contains a collection of articles that grew out of that symposium. Below, Karen Hussey, a co-convenor of the symposium, outlines these articles and examines a theme common to them all--the regulatory fragmentation of natural resource management.

Developing a More Holistic Approach to Water Management in the United States

by William L. Andreen

Editor's Summary: Unlike many other parts of the world, the United States enjoys abundant freshwater resources. And while efforts to protect these valuable resources have experienced some success, these efforts are not enough. One of the reasons for this deficiency in U.S. water management policy is the existence of various jurisdictional barriers. EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the states, and local governments all have different roles to play in relation to water rights, the protection of water-based ecosystems, and land use in the United States. In this Article, Prof. William Andreen argues that a better understanding of the relationship between land use and water, and an improved institutional ability to act on that understanding, is needed in order to truly improve our aquatic resources. He also presents several reforms that could be made within the existing legal structure to better integrate U.S. land and water policy.

Water Law and Policy in Australia--An Overview

by D.E. Fisher

Editor's Summary: Australia is the world's driest continent. Its watersheds collect very little water, and except for Antarctica, it has the lowest level of rainfall of any continent. Land use choices, in addition to the extraction of surface water and groundwater for domestic, industrial, and agricultural purposes, have further exacerbated the nation's water woes. Australia's experience in water law and policy could therefore prove quite instructive as we face the need to better manage our global water resources. In this Article, Prof. Douglas Fisher provides an overview of the development of water law in Australia over the last 215 years from a system that was originally based on principles of common law to one that recognizes and seeks to respond to the international call for sustainability.

Markets, Water Rights, and Sustainable Development

by D.E. Fisher

Editor's Summary: Today, government agencies in Australia must manage water resources sustainably. One of the means available for achieving this goal is the use of market instruments. Yet the protection of ecological and environmental values and the protection of private interests in water seem at odds with one another. In this Article, Prof. Douglas Fisher examines these two seemingly conflicting objectives as he considers how a market in water rights might be created, what legal framework would be appropriate to sustain such a market, and issues of transferability.

Environmental Water Allocations in Australia

by Alex Gardner

Editor's Summary: Throughout Australia, allocating water to protect the natural environment is a fundamental aspect of managing the right to take water for consumptive purposes. The allocation of water for environmental purposes, therefore, requires a balance between competing uses. Further, decisions to allocate water to consumptive uses in compromise of natural ecosystems reflect societal choices about what will be an acceptable sustainable use of water resources. And because water resources legislation reflects these societal choices, some core principles need to apply. In this Article, Alex Gardner examines the national water policy principles pertaining to the determination and implementation of environmental water allocations in Australia. He then focuses on the progress that has been made in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia in establishing an effective legislative framework for allocating water to protect the natural environment.

What Lessons From Europe? A Comparative Analysis of the Legal Frameworks That Govern Europe's Transboundary Waters

by Patricia Wouters

Editors' Summary: Rivers, lakes, and aquifers cross national borders around the world creating international interdependencies related to one of the world's most precious resources. More than one-half of the world's population derives their water from international sources, located beyond the jurisdiction and control of the country where they live. What are the rules of international law that govern these shared waters, and how can national water policy objectives be pursued in light of such interdependency, especially in a world of sovereign states? In this Article, Dr. Patricia Wouters identifies the legal regimes that apply to international watercourses and uses Europe as a regional case study to compare these different regimes. She uses a five-point analytical framework to identify, examine, and compare the rules of international law that govern these shared waters. The Article concludes by highlighting the legal innovations at the heart of the dual-track governance regime that has evolved to regulate Europe's transboundary waters and embeds this study in the global context.