Special Issue "New Water Regimes"

A special issue of Resources (ISSN 2079-9276).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2017)

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jacque Emel

Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610, USA
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Interests: mining and development; water resource management; animal geographies, and feminist political ecology
Guest Editor
Dr. Alida Cantor

Department of Geography, Portland State University, 1721 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201, USA
E-Mail
Interests: Water resource management; legal geography; environmental justice; political ecology; feminist science and technology studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, the Western United States has experienced severe drought that has stressed the region’s water supply. Struggles to manage water during the recent drought highlight, not only the region’s vulnerability to future climate change, but also shortcomings in the ability of our existing legal system to handle contemporary challenges of water supply and allocation.

Water law in the Western United States is based largely on principles developed over 100 years ago—for example, the doctrine of prior appropriation, or ‘first come, first serve’ water rights. The legal infrastructure governing the region’s water supply was created based upon a certain set of assumptions about water valuation and management: Namely, that the ‘highest and best use’ of water was to be put to use by colonial settlers for economic gain. However, in recent decades, newer political theories, such as eco-feminism, posthumanism, post-anthropocentricism, and decolonialism, have produced different ideas about water valuation and management that conflict with Ameri-Euro imperialist goals and practices. Additionally, newer scientific knowledge, in particular about climate change, has shed doubt upon the ability of existing water rights systems to meet users’ needs in an equitable way as drought becomes the ‘new normal.’

We now find ourselves entrenched in an arguably absurd legal system based on assumptions about water that no longer hold true. The existing water rights system of the Western U.S. is highly antiquated, given new scientific knowledge about climate change as well as pluri-ontological valuation of humanities in natures. In this Special Issue, we seek to reconsider water law from a broad range of theoretical perspectives. Key questions include:

 

  • How can we re-imagine entrenched water laws inaugurated in a period when capitalists and engineers considered rivers and aquifers nothing but plumbing opportunities to transfer huge volumes of water to agriculture and urban centers especially in arid or semi-arid areas such as the western United States?

  • What should alternative legal structures and principles look like? What must they take into consideration? More broadly, how can we re-imagine civilizations that live with newer knowledges and more pluralistic understandings regarding humans in      natures?

  • Recent discourses around re-imagining water rights in NGO and water management circles systems have largely focused on market-based solutions. Why is the market considered the best arbiter, and what alternatives exist?

  • How might existing legal doctrines, such as ‘reasonable use’ be mobilized to rethink existing water rights systems?

  • How do issues such as climate change, food/water security, and food/water sovereignty come into the conversation?

  • How might constitutional reform and political resistance in countries of the south illustrate alternatives to problematic goals and practices embedded in water management in the U.S. West?

 

While the questions in this issue are framed around a regional focus on the Western United States, we welcome examples from other regions around the world that might provide insight.

Papers will be published in a special issue of Resources, an open access journal that is multi-disciplinary and up and coming. Jacque Emel (Clark University) and Alida Cantor (Berkeley and Portland State University) are the co-editors. Two-paragraph proposals are due 1 August, 2017, and final papers by 15 November, 2017.

Prof. Dr. Jacque Emel
Dr. Alida Cantor
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Resources is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 350 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessFeature PaperEditorial New Water Regimes: An Editorial
Received: 22 March 2018 / Revised: 28 March 2018 / Accepted: 2 April 2018 / Published: 4 April 2018
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Abstract
This editorial is an introduction to the special issue of Resources on New Water Regimes. The special issue explores legal geographies of water resource management with the dual goals of providing critiques of existing water management practices as well as exploring potential alternatives.
[...] Read more.
This editorial is an introduction to the special issue of Resources on New Water Regimes. The special issue explores legal geographies of water resource management with the dual goals of providing critiques of existing water management practices as well as exploring potential alternatives. The papers in the special issue draw from numerous theoretical perspectives, including decolonial and post-anthropocentric approaches to water governance; social and environmental justice in water management; and understanding legal ecologies. A variety of themes of water governance are addressed, including water allocation, groundwater management, collaborative governance, drought planning, and water quality. The papers describe and analyze water issues and new ideas in multiple countries, including Australia, Ecuador, New Zealand, India, and the United States. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available

Research

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Open AccessArticle From Fragmented to Joint Responsibilities: Barriers and Opportunities for Adaptive Water Quality Governance in California’s Urban-Agricultural Interface
Received: 4 December 2017 / Revised: 1 March 2018 / Accepted: 7 March 2018 / Published: 17 March 2018
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Abstract
California is facing a critical water supply and water quality crisis, necessitating a clear shift in the way water resources are managed. This study assesses the effectiveness of water law and policy in the urban-agricultural interface, where the two discharge into common waterways
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California is facing a critical water supply and water quality crisis, necessitating a clear shift in the way water resources are managed. This study assesses the effectiveness of water law and policy in the urban-agricultural interface, where the two discharge into common waterways but have different regulatory requirements. A case study from one of California’s most productive agricultural regions, the Salinas Valley, explores the complexities and inadequacies of current water law in the interface, as well as promising integrated water management schemes. The article’s findings are based on archival research, extensive document review and 15 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders. Findings suggest that local, state and federal water policy is severely fragmented, providing little incentive for the multitude of water entities to collaborate on multi-benefit projects and resulting in unsuccessful water quality improvements. There is a strong need for a more integrated policy approach that bridges different types of dischargers (agricultural and urban), water quality and water quantity issues and also incorporates land uses into policy decision making. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Recognition of Barkandji Water Rights in Australian Settler-Colonial Water Regimes
Received: 25 November 2017 / Revised: 31 January 2018 / Accepted: 14 February 2018 / Published: 24 February 2018
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Abstract
The passage of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) brought with it much anticipation—though in reality, quite limited means—for recognizing and protecting Aboriginal peoples’ rights to land and water across Australia. A further decade passed before national and State water policy acknowledged Aboriginal
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The passage of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) brought with it much anticipation—though in reality, quite limited means—for recognizing and protecting Aboriginal peoples’ rights to land and water across Australia. A further decade passed before national and State water policy acknowledged Aboriginal water rights and interests. In 2015, the native title rights of the Barkandji Aboriginal People in the Australian State of New South Wales (NSW) were recognized after an eighteen-year legal case. This legal recognition represents a significant outcome for the Barkandji People because water and, more specifically, the Darling River, or Barka, is central to their existence. However, the Barkandji confront ongoing struggles to have their common law rights recognized and accommodated within Australian water governance regimes. Informed by literature relating to the politics of recognition, we examine the outcomes of government attempts at Indigenous recognition through four Australian water regimes: national water policy; native title law; NSW water legislation; and NSW water allocation planning. Drawing from the Barkandji’s experiences in engaging with water regimes, we analyze and characterize the outcomes of these recognition attempts broadly as ‘misrecognition’ and ‘non-recognition’, and describe the associated implications for Aboriginal peoples. These manifestations of colonial power relations, whether intended or not, undermine the legitimacy of state water regimes because they fail to generate recognition of, and respect for, Aboriginal water rights and to redress historical legacies of exclusion and discrimination in access to water. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle The Vital Minimum Amount of Drinking Water Required in Ecuador
Received: 2 November 2017 / Revised: 7 February 2018 / Accepted: 13 February 2018 / Published: 24 February 2018
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Abstract
In 2017, the government of Ecuador established the minimum quantity of water required to be provided for free by drinking water utilities. Ecuador recognized the access to water as a fundamental human right because it guarantees the good living, known as “Sumak kawsay”,
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In 2017, the government of Ecuador established the minimum quantity of water required to be provided for free by drinking water utilities. Ecuador recognized the access to water as a fundamental human right because it guarantees the good living, known as “Sumak kawsay”, an indigenous Andean concept, in the Ecuadorian Constitution. This represents a novel approach to water rights in the world, as it is the first attempt to establish a minimum quantity of water under a constitutional guarantee by legislation, rather than regulation or judicial decision. However, this novel legislative approach raises the question of how this minimum amount of free water will impact the most vulnerable members of the Ecuadorian community. This paper provides the results of the first comprehensive research of the minimum required water provision in Ecuador. In order to measure the impact on the income of households, we built a methodology integrating: doctrinaire analyses, normative studies, and economic analyses. According to the Ecuadorian legislation, over-consumption of raw water generates additional costs that must be paid by water companies to the central government. In that regard, there is an inevitable relationship between the efficiency of the service and those additional costs. Efficiency, on this case, is the capacity of water companies (public or private) to provide water services at an adequate price, observing the following parameters: quantity, quality and sufficiency. Our research found that with this legislation in three Ecuadorian local governments (Cuenca, Gualaceo and Suscal), the most vulnerable households (i.e., low-income and/or indigenous households) will be affected the most. This means that and those families will spend the most part of their income on water services otherwise they would have to reduce their water consumption. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle Ecological Drought: Accounting for the Non-Human Impacts of Water Shortage in the Upper Missouri Headwaters Basin, Montana, USA
Received: 18 December 2017 / Revised: 9 February 2018 / Accepted: 14 February 2018 / Published: 20 February 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (778 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Water laws and drought plans are used to prioritize and allocate scarce water resources. Both have historically been human-centric, failing to account for non-human water needs. In this paper, we examine the development of instream flow legislation and the evolution of drought planning
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Water laws and drought plans are used to prioritize and allocate scarce water resources. Both have historically been human-centric, failing to account for non-human water needs. In this paper, we examine the development of instream flow legislation and the evolution of drought planning to highlight the growing concern for the non-human impacts of water scarcity. Utilizing a new framework for ecological drought, we analyzed five watershed-scale drought plans in southwestern Montana, USA to understand if, and how, the ecological impacts of drought are currently being assessed. We found that while these plans do account for some ecological impacts, it is primarily through the narrow lens of impacts to fish as measured by water temperature and streamflow. The latter is typically based on the same ecological principles used to determine instream flow requirements. We also found that other resource plans in the same watersheds (e.g., Watershed Restoration Plans, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Watershed Assessments or United States Forest Service (USFS) Forest Plans) identify a broader range of ecological drought risks. Given limited resources and the potential for mutual benefits and synergies, we suggest greater integration between various planning processes could result in a more holistic consideration of water needs and uses across the landscape. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle An Equity Autopsy: Exploring the Role of Water Rights in Water Allocations and Impacts for the Central Valley Project during the 2012–2016 California Drought
Received: 27 November 2017 / Revised: 25 January 2018 / Accepted: 6 February 2018 / Published: 13 February 2018
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Abstract
Entrenched Western water rights regimes may appear to function relatively well in wet years, but extreme drought events can expose the kinds of harsh ecological and socio-economic outcomes that the hard edges of prior appropriation inherently generate. During the 2012–2016 California drought some
[...] Read more.
Entrenched Western water rights regimes may appear to function relatively well in wet years, but extreme drought events can expose the kinds of harsh ecological and socio-economic outcomes that the hard edges of prior appropriation inherently generate. During the 2012–2016 California drought some irrigators received little or no water at all in consecutive years while others received comparatively large allocations. This paper focuses on the role that California’s water rights priority system and its administration via Central Valley Project contracts have played in generating disproportionate water allocations and impacts during the drought. The analysis is structured around two key questions: (a) in what ways does strict adherence to a priority system of water allocations produce inequitable socio-ecological outcomes during severe drought? (b) how might the system be changed to foster outcomes that are more equitable and fair, and with less costly and less serious conflicts in a non-stationary climate future marked by extreme events? Using an equity perspective, I draw from the doctrine of equitable apportionment to imagine a water rights regime that is better able to create a fairer distribution of drought impacts while meaningfully elevating the importance of future generations and increasing adaptive capacity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessCommunication California’s Groundwater Regime: The Cadiz Case
Received: 18 November 2017 / Revised: 16 January 2018 / Accepted: 18 January 2018 / Published: 21 January 2018
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Abstract
Recent California legislation has promised solutions to longstanding problems in groundwater management through an emphasis on management of groundwater itself, rather than on the rights of overlying property owners. In this short communication, I argue that the promises of scientific management relies on
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Recent California legislation has promised solutions to longstanding problems in groundwater management through an emphasis on management of groundwater itself, rather than on the rights of overlying property owners. In this short communication, I argue that the promises of scientific management relies on property law and jurisdiction and therefore that scientific claims about the water itself are less important than private property claims in the case of a Cadiz Inc.’s proposed groundwater extraction project in Southeastern California. While private property in land insulates Cadiz Inc. (Los Angeles, CA, USA) from political contestation, opposition to the project has increasingly focused on the right to transport and transfer water through lands not held by Cadiz Inc. This legal strategy points to how California groundwater law is still fundamentally ruled by private property in land, which shifts the grounds of environmental politics from extraction itself to the transport of extracted materials. This case serves as a good example of the intersection of political ecology and legal geography. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available

Review

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Open AccessReview Rights of Nature: Rivers That Can Stand in Court
Received: 7 December 2017 / Revised: 16 January 2018 / Accepted: 1 February 2018 / Published: 14 February 2018
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Abstract
An increasing number of court rulings and legislation worldwide are recognizing rights of nature to be protected and preserved. Recognizing these rights also entails the recognition that nature has the right to stand in court and to be represented for its defense. This
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An increasing number of court rulings and legislation worldwide are recognizing rights of nature to be protected and preserved. Recognizing these rights also entails the recognition that nature has the right to stand in court and to be represented for its defense. This is still an incipient field and every step taken in this direction constitutes a precedent from which to learn and on which to base new rulings and legislation initiatives. Within this doctrine, rivers seem to be on the spotlight and court rulings on the rights of rivers are the ones setting precedent. These cases have taken place in New Zealand, Ecuador, India, and Colombia. This review looks into what all these rulings and legislation worldwide say about the rights of nature and what legal and systemic considerations should be taken into account as the recognition of the rights of nature moves forward. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Water Regimes) Printed Edition available
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