Water is essential to every form of life. It is also vast, in planetary terms; scarce, as to its freshwater component; increasingly expensive to render potable—that is, suitable for humans to ingest; and subject to both over-use and growing demand throughout the United States and worldwide. Its natural source of regulation, the hydrological cycle, is continually perturbed by human interventions, not the least of them accomplished by means of law and policy designed around pre-scientific assumptions about the resource. Many of these interventions are not proving well-suited to modern conditions that feature resource stress, supply and demand imbalance, social and economic cost, and injustice.
The twenty-first century is producing a grand reckoning with these inherited legal and social practices and habits of thought. In the U.S., much of the needed re-examination of law and policy is falling to the states, so these will be the focus of much of our work, though issues best approached through federal or foreign examples will received coverage, too. For select issues, Texas will serve as our living laboratory. The course materials will be inter-disciplinary, designed to bring these issues to life. *** There will be two very brief written assignments due during the term, a floating take-home final exam, and evaluative attention to class preparation, contribution, and attendance. *** There is no prerequisite for this course.