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 11: Normative Arrangements in Unitary Jurisdictions

Douglas Fisher


INTRODUCTION The effectiveness of how water resources are governed depends ultimately upon what happens to the water at a particular location and at a particular time. This is a reflection of both the formal and the normative structure for managing water resources. What happens may be guided by a sophisticated set of principles, by a range of centrally dictated administrative edicts, by a collection of well recognised rules or simply by the values consciously absorbed by the members of the community. As we have seen, these values may be religious, philosophical, cultural or utilitarian. In any event, most – probably all – of the earliest arrangements for managing water resources have assumed a formal structure based upon control inherent in an omnicompetent institution. For example, the pharaoh in Egypt, the king in Babylonia or the code of Manu imposing duties on the king in the Indus Valley. The normative structure of water resources management in these instances for the most part comprised duties imposed upon administrative officials, users of the water or both. And the sanction was often criminal. For example, in Egypt ‘damage to and neglect of dikes and canals was an offence punishable by death’.1 The Hammurabi Code provided for the maintenance of waterworks and canals, and a failure to comply attracted a punishment. Thus ‘where a man has opened his trench for irrigation and has been slack and has let the waters carry away the soil on his neighbor’s land, he shall pay corn corresponding to his neighbor’s loss’.2...

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