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 18: The Need for Doctrinal Innovation

Douglas Fisher


TOWARDS LEGAL INTEGRATION (a) The Challenge Water is a critical issue for each and every community across the globe. There is a diversity of interests and concerns. There is a diversity of cultural, institutional and legal arrangements. Despite this diversity, the characteristics of water are much the same across all communities. Five have been identified: • water is an essential of life; • its availability is variable and uncertain; • it is supplied or available locally; • it is used for a wide variety of independent purposes; • there is no substitute for water.1 These characteristics: Combine to make water a ‘commodity’ of special significance to government, industry and the general populace and a subject which can arouse great passion. Command over water confers power especially in arid climates while, conversely, lack of government control over water leads to the risk of social instability.2 One of the most important questions in establishing a system for water resources governance is to determine who has control of water resources and of water at the several points of the hydrological cycle. Just as important is how this power of control should be exercised: in other words a combination of structural and normative issues. Although each community over the millennia may have responded somewhat differently to these questions, it is remarkable how much emphasis has been placed upon the need to conserve rather than waste water in the context of the arrangements for its use and development. In some communities over the last 200 or 300 years the pendulum...

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