The Law and Governance of Water Resources
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The Law and Governance of Water Resources

The Challenge of Sustainability

Douglas Fisher

This path-breaking book focuses on the law and legal doctrine within the wider policy context of water resources and analyses the concept of sustainability.
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Chapter 1: Water Resources Governance in Context

Douglas Fisher


INTRODUCTION The hydrosphere is an extremely complex set of natural arrangements. Many of these arrangements remain something of a mystery for human beings. Yet each human being has an interest in and in many cases a concern about what happens to the water resources that are part of this hydrosphere. This is so whether the concern is as an inhabitant of the earth, as a supplier or consumer of water, or as a strategic planner concerned with sustainable water resources governance. Civilisations have prospered and decayed over the millennia in consequence of the availability of water resources and of the ways these water resources have been managed. The cultural values of a civilisation and the ways in which these values have been incorporated in its normative, cultural, institutional and legal arrangements have significantly influenced the fate of the civilisation. Perhaps the beginning of the 21st century has been a turning point. The evolution of different cultural values over the last 30 years of the 20th century has focused attention upon sustainability. It is now trite to observe that natural resources should be developed and used sustainably. This includes water resources. But what does this mean? How is it to be achieved? What system of governance is appropriate for the sustainable development and use of water resources? What function is there for the law to perform in achieving sustainability? This is not to suggest that sustainability is a new concept. Natural resources have been used sustainably since time immemorial – but in...

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