Water law

Water law is the field of law dealing with the ownership, control, and use of water as a resource. It is most closely related to property law, but has also become influenced by environmental law. Because water is vital to living things and to a variety of economic activities, laws attempting to govern it have far-reaching effects. The history of people's relation to water illustrates varied approaches to the management of water resources. "Lipit Ishtar and Ur Nammu both contain water provisions, pre-date Hammurabi by at least 250 years, and clearly provide the normative underpinnings on which the Hammurabi Code was constructed" . The Etruscans had a deep knowledge of hydrology and hydraulics, a knowledge which they put to good use in their many land drainage schemes. The lower lying portions of Rome such as the area between the Capitol and Velia was formerly marshland. Settlement of the low-lying ground would never have been a possibility without the hydraulic engineering skills of the Etruscans. This took place around 625 BCE when, according to archaeological evidence a network of drainage channels was dug through the marshy ground, and at the same time, the stream that separated the two hills of the Capitoline and Palatine was regulated, its embankments were strengthened, and it was finally covered over. Without enclosure and drainage, more than half of the area of the present-day Netherlands would be flooded with every high tide, every wet season, or permanently. The struggle for the country's survival has largely determined its appearance and left numerous marks on it. In the triangle between the cities of Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden the 45,000-acre (180 km2) Haarlemmermeer polder demonstrates an extraordinary step in the scale of land drainage. After centuries of preliminaries, a lake of unprecedented size was drained in three years (1849Ц1852) and transformed into valuable agricultural land. In 1899, construction of the first Aswan Dam was begun to address agricultural and energy shortages exacerbated by population growth in Egypt and the Sudan. Completed in 1902, its height was raised in subsequent building campaigns of 1907-12 and 1929-34. With the signing of the Nile Water Agreement by Egypt and the Sudan in November 1959, work began on the second Aswan dam. The second dam submerged much of Lower Nubia displacing 90,000 Egyptian peasants and destroying monuments and archaeological sites from the First to the Third Cataracts of the Nile River. The Aswan High Dam captures floodwat r during rainy seasons and releases the water during times of drought. The dam also generates more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours every year. The project prevents the natural silting process which enriched Egyptian agriculture and farmers must now use about one million tons of artificial fertilizer as a substitute for natural nutrients that once fertilized the now arid floodplain. Water has unique features that make it difficult to regulate using laws designed mainly for land. Water is mobile, its supply varies by year and season as well as location, and it can be used simultaneously by many users. As with property (land) law, water rights can be described as a "bundle of sticks" containing multiple, separable activities that can have varying levels of regulation. For instance, some uses of water divert it from its natural course but return most or all of it (e.g. hydroelectric plants), while others consume much of what they take (ice, agriculture), and still others use water without diverting it at all (e.g. boating). Each type of activity has its own needs and can in theory be regulated separately. There are several types of conflict likely to arise: absolute shortages; shortages in a particular time or place; diversions of water that reduce the flow available to others; pollutants or other changes (such as temperature or turbidity) that render water unfit for others' use; and the need to maintain "in-stream flows" of water to protect the natural ecosystem. One theory of history, put forward in the influential book Oriental Despotism, holds that many empires were organized around a central authority that controlled a population through monopolizing the water supply. Such a hydraulic empire creates the potential for despotism, and serves as a cautionary tale for designing water regulations. Water law involves controversy in some parts of the world where a growing population faces increasing competition over a limited natural supply. Disputes over rivers, lakes and underground aquifers cross national borders.[1] Although water law is still regulated mainly by individual countries, there are international sets of proposed rules such as the Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers and the Hague Declaration on Water Security in the 21st Century. Long-term issues in water law include the possible effects of global warming on rainfall patterns and evaporation; the availability and cost of desalination technology; the control of pollution, and the growth of aquaculture.