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In Search of Sustainable Water Management

International Lessons for the American West and Beyond

Edited by Douglas S. Kenney

Water issues in the American West share many similarities with those seen elsewhere in the world as population growth exacerbates longstanding problems of inappropriate water use and management. The contributors to this timely volume examine the universal challenge of sustainable water management to improve the use of water resources already developed and find ways to moderate our growing collective thirst.
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Chapter 6: Sustainability and the Future of Western Water Law

Lakshman Guruswamy and A. Dan Tarlock


Lakshman Guruswamy and A. Dan Tarlock INTRODUCTION The chapters in this book clearly demonstrate that the American West is not the only region on the planet challenged to manage better its scarce water. The problems of policy and law confronting the American West are common to other parts of the world. The question is: what are the appropriate institutional models and legal principles to address them? Unfortunately, the answer is not as easy as it once seemed. At one time, the United States was the undisputed leader in water policy. It initially adapted the experience of the British Empire and Spain to the arid and semi-arid West and used this experience to build the institutions necessary to sustain the settlement of the region (see Chapter 1). But, the chapters in this volume also demonstrate that the United States is lagging behind other parts of the world in adapting to changed water use demands. The old model of optimum river basin development no longer encompasses the full range of economic, environmental and social dimensions of modern water use. We want water to serve traditional consumptive and non-consumptive demands, to support aquatic ecosystems and to help sustain defined communities such as indigenous peoples. Most countries of the world are attempting to apply an expanded version of sustainable development to construct a new water use policy. We argue that there is a need to construct a new western water use policy and that it should reflect the international consensus about the...

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