SMNR: Water Law & Policy in the 21st 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 globe -- 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. Students will write a research paper, with the instructor's topic approval, in lieu of an exam. The paper may qualify for satisfaction of the upper-level writing requirement. It may also develop into a published law review Note, as has happened in prior years. If the upper-level writing requirement has already been satisfied in a 397S course, a student may, with the instructor's permission, write two shorter papers, instead. Students may also write jointly on a common topic, once approved, if each member of the group of two or more writes an independent portion that can satisfy the course's writing requirement. This seminar will meet jointly with the 1L course of the same name, but students in each class will be graded independently of one another. There is no prerequisite for this course. Students may take it concurrently with Professor Torres's Water Law course if they so choose.