November 01, 2011

The 30th Annual Water Law Conference: Exploring the Future of Water Law

The 30th Annual Water Law Conference will be held in San Diego on February 22–24, 2012. The conference will address emerging national and international water issues in the coming decades against the backdrop of the most important developments in the past thirty years of water law. As the American forester and founding member of The Wildness Society, Bernard Frank, said: “You could write the story of man’s growth in terms of his epic concerns with water.”

This two-day discussion by leading academics, in-house counsel, NGO and government representatives, and practitioners will feature keynote speaker Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute. A MacArthur Fellow, elected to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. and an academician of the International Water Academy in Oslo, Norway, Dr. Gleick has been dubbed “a visionary on the environment” by the BBC. His presentation will set the stage for the 30th Annual Conference, which will include several plenary and breakout sessions, a reception, and a luncheon.

Key sessions include:

The Human Right to Water in the United States? With 884 million people worldwide without access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion without access to basic sanitation, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2010 calling on states and international organizations to scale up efforts to provide clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. These concerns have largely been addressed in the United States. Is it, therefore, necessary to formally recognize a human right to water in this country?

Water and Gas Shale Development in the United States Extensive gas shale reserves confirmed throughout the United States and internationally have been hailed as a potential game changer for the world’s energy profile. Yet concerns have been raised that shale gas development may adversely affect ground and surface water supply and quality. What are the jurisdictions of federal and state agencies studying the issues, and what is the latest thinking on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water?

Where’s the Money? Water Infrastructure Financing in a Whole New World Across the nation, investment in water facility construction and maintenance is confronting serious financial challenges. How do water facility sponsors pursue financing? What alternatives are available from infrastructure banks, public-private partnerships, and innovative state and local initiatives? 

East Meets West: Lessons to Be Learned A significant trend in U.S. water practice is the convergence of eastern and western water law issues. What can the East learn from the western history of allocation and the West take from the East about the role of quality in resource allocation? What joint approaches inform responses to federal regulation and water conservation?

Legal Issues Across Interstate Boundaries Current litigation abounds throughout the country over interstate waters, addressing important federalism and state sovereignty issues that have nationwide impact. Panel members will explore three ongoing disputes: Lake Lanier (Georgia, Alabama, and Florida), the Republican River (Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado), and Grand Lake (Oklahoma and Texas).

The Climate Has Changed, Now What? Leading water agencies at the federal, state, and local levels already have begun adaptation to prepare for water uncertainty. How do these strategies affect and how will they be affected by the law in the coming years?

Tribal Water Rights What are the off-reservation water marketing efforts by tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, and how should they be treated in the law?  Can tribes sell settlement water across state lines?

To Act or Not to Act: Federal ESA and Water Management Discretion The Endangered Species Act consultation provisions apply to federal actions that are discretionary. Where does the line of discretion begin and end in the law?

The Mystery of Water Flow Unmasked—Where Does the Water Go, and How Does It Get There? Hydrologists will explain it all.

The schedule will also feature a practical session discussing ethical issues for water lawyers.  

The Water Law Conference is targeted towards lawyers, engineers, policy makers, and water managers with interest in the protection, development, and allocation of water rights and water resources, or those who participate in the management of surface and groundwater resources. It will offer insights to all persons involved in water right issues nationwide, including those with private, municipal, agricultural, and tribal water rights. The conference is open to any interested persons, and is not limited to lawyers.

Rounding out the 30th Annual Water Law Conference will be a public service project in the beautiful San Diego area and opportunities to network with your colleagues. Click here for further information about the conference or call the Section at (312) 988–5724. We hope you will join us.

Trends, Vol. 43, No. 2, November/December 2011, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, American Bar Association.