Federal Rivers
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Federal Rivers

Managing Water in Multi-Layered Political Systems

Edited by Dustin E. Garrick, George R.M. Anderson, Daniel Connell and Jamie Pittock

This groundbreaking book provides a comparative perspective on water and federalism across multiple countries. Through a collection of case studies, this book explores the water management experiences and lessons learned in ten federal countries and China. The territorial division of power in federations, plus the interconnected politics at the national and regional levels, present a classic governance test for waters shared across multiple political jurisdictions. This is increasingly important as democratic transitions have introduced or invigorated federalism across diverse contexts affecting more than 300 major river basins, including over half of the world’s international rivers.
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Chapter 3: Federalism and US water policy

Managing Water in Multi-Layered Political Systems

Andrea K. Gerlak


Water resource management in the United States today is increasingly complex and fragmented as strategies are pursued across multiple decision forums and institutional arrangements (Adler 2000; Stakhiv 2003; Gerlak 2008). Accumulated mandates, authorities, practices, and habits of generations of governmental participation in water resources characterize US water policy. At the federal level alone there are 20 or more federal agencies with some responsibility in water resources (AWRA 2007), working across more than 100 federal water programs for water quality and quantity, water supply, navigation, hydropower, recreation, climate change, natural hazards management, and integrated water resources management (US ACE 2011, p. 20). As part of this complex web of federal involvement in water resource management and use, many congressional committees are involved in legislating, funding, and overseeing the water-related activities of the numerous federal agencies (Cody et al. 2012, p. 1). At last count, more than 100,000 local water-related entities and more than 300 departments in 50 states have water-related functions (Dworsky et al. 1991). The roles of all levels of government in water resources within the US have evolved over time to account for new challenges and incorporate a broader range of stakeholders (White 2000; Deason et al. 2001; ICWP 2006). The relative capabilities of the actors also have been changing as state, local governments, and non-governmental organizations have improved their resource base and increased their abilities in multiple areas of water management (Bell and Johnson 1991; Rogers 1993; Feldman 2007; Mayorís Water Council 2011).

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