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Protecting Water as a Public Trust

A manual for advocates on water use begins with an ominous warning we’ve heard before:

“Decades of unwise water policies and practices have left water resources in the United States overdrawn and increasingly overwhelmed. In many parts of the country, the warning signs are obscured by flowing rivers and streams and plentiful tap water from the kitchen faucet. But upon closer examination, the signs are clear: river flows are low and wells are becoming depleted. Meanwhile, the projected trends are not reassuring. Demands for water resources from urban and suburban development are competing with demands for aquatic ecosystem restoration and preservation. Worse, climate change promises to exacerbate the problem by fundamentally altering the fresh water cycle.”

We’ve heard this warning before, but now across the globe we see the warnings coming true. Yet water policy is dominated by large powerful interest groups. The use of the Public Trust Doctrine is one avenue advocates can consider. The Center for Progressive Reform has published a series of manuals and reports on the use of the Public Trust Doctrine to protect water resources. It is well worth reviewing if you are looking at steps forward in the use of water resources.

The Public Trust Doctrine: Protecting Water Resources

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