Table of Contents

Water and the Law

Water and the Law

Towards Sustainability

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series

Edited by Michael Kidd, Loretta Feris, Tumai Murombo and Alejandro Iza

Water and the Law examines the critical relationship between law and the management of water resources in the context of ensuring environmental sustainability. It highlights the central importance of integrated water resources management and cooperation in achieving sustainability. The book considers two broad themes: how law can contribute to the sustainability of water itself and how the law’s regulation of water can contribute to the sustainability of life – both human life as well as that of other species in their natural environment.

Chapter 6: A jurisprudential model for sustainable water resources governance

Douglas E. Fisher

Subjects: environment, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, water, law - academic, environmental law, water law


The legal arrangements for the management of water resources are currently a complex matrix of rules of various kinds, performing a diverse range of functions. These include paralegal rules in the form of statements of value, objective, outcome or principles – part of what may be described as the macro-legal system for the governance of water resources. There are also traditional legal rules in the form of statements of standards for individual conduct, behaviour or decision making – part of the micro-legal system for water resources governance. These legal arrangements may be international, regional, national or local, some applying to nation states within the international community, others applying to the regulatory agencies making decisions about water resources within nation states. Ultimately most of these legal arrangements apply to those who use and develop water resources for particular purposes and in particular locations. Rules explain how water resources should be used in particular circumstances and how decisions should be made to ensure the effective planning and regulation of water resources. The principle of sustainability has compounded the complexity of these arrangements. Increasingly, the sustainable use and development of water resources has been incorporated within the detailed rules for the governance of water resources. While the precise nature and function of sustainability within the legal system remains controversial, its influence cannot be denied. One of the doctrinal challenges facing the governance of water resources is how to incorporate sustainability within this complicated set of legal and paralegal rules.

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