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At the Confluence of the Clean Water Act and Prior Appropriation: The Challenge and Ways Forward

February 2013

Citation: ELR 10138

Author: Adam Schempp

In the western United States, the management of surface water quality and quantity is highly compartmentalized. This compartmentalization among and within state and federal authorities is not inherently objectionable. To the contrary, it likely is necessary. Yet, the degree of compartmentalization appears to have so divided management of this resource that damage has been done to both sides. Opportunities exist for cooperation, coordination, and a more holistic perspective on water management with little or even no change in law. Several western states have demonstrated the value of interagency coordination on general matters concerning water quality and quantity, as well as the benefits of case-specific consultations among those same parties.

Adam Schempp is the Director of the Western Water Program at the Environmental Law Institute.