Water Law and Policy for the Twenty-First Century

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
THU 3:30 - 5:20 pm JON 6.206

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


Water is essential to life. But unlike air, it isn't everywhere all the time and it isn't available in quantities that can fulfill all needs, human and otherwise, in all places. As the human population expands, the climate continues to warm, and expectations concerning water's availability, quality, sufficiency, and sustainability generate problems all over the world -- including here in central Texas -- our century will be marked by heightening conflicts over the just allocation of what is now called "blue gold". In fact, it already is. This course is centered on current issues involving the allocation, use, and conservation of water. These will be viewed through the lens of the principles and the legal and policy-based responses that are beginning to consolidate around these issues at all levels of governance. Through a second lens, we will see where traditional legal doctrines and other rights-based expectations shape and potentially limit the choices to be made. And, through a third lens, we will observe how the emergence of a rising water ethic -- including here, at the University of Texas -- can exert its own force. Finally, we will see, through the lens of pure science, some very recent discoveries that could re- situate the very basis of water law in the United States and around the world. For a part of this course, we will treat Texas as our living laboratory in order to gain some close perspectives on local challenges and on the dramatically different legal and policy choices that cities here are making in regard to water use now and for their futures. And we will take a field trip to explore a special effort at conservation and conservation-lawyering close to home. This is a reading, writing, and discussion-based course. In lieu of an exam, students will write discussion questions on the readings every other week and will write a brief analytic paper on a topic chosen by the instructor or by the student, with the instructor's approval. The paper may develop into a published law review Note, as has happened in prior years. Papers may be group-based projects involving two or more students, so long as participants write individual contributions on a common theme approved by the instructor. There is no prerequisite for this course. It will meet together with the upper- level seminar of the same name, but the two courses will be graded independently of one another.