Who has the right to access water in the American West? Find out during an online webinar hosted by the National Agricultural Law Center on May 18.
As of May 5, nearly 64 percent of the 48 contiguous states had some form of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Models from the Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration don’t show much improvement over the next few months. Water levels at Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, are at their lowest since 1937, the year after the lake was created.
In late April, more than “37 percent of land in the western region of the United States was classified as experiencing extreme or exceptional drought,” said Laura A. Schroeder of the Schroeder Law Offices, P.C. “Exceptional” is the most intense drought classification, while “extreme” is the second most intense form.
These prolonged droughts, longer fire seasons and overdrawn water sources have begun to test the limits of the prior appropriation system used to determine water rights in arid Western states. Under the prior appropriation doctrine, water rights are determined based on the theory of “first in time, first in right,” and tend to favor senior users over junior users.
Consequences of drought declarations in prior appropriation systems that allocate the right to use water based on who got there first, could potentially prevent individuals or organizations with a need for the water from using it at all. Municipalities, agricultural users, environmental uses and more are all competing for access to a limited amount of water. As water becomes scarcer, innovative solutions and tools for water access are gaining interest.
“Within this context, I look forward to discussing critical resources and information on the legal options available to stakeholders, including agriculture, who are operating in a prior appropriations system,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder and fellow Schroeder Law Offices shareholder Therese Ure Stix, will discuss tools that states and regional coalitions have implemented to assist water users. They will also look at agency expedited review processes, preferred uses, and the use of agreements to circumvent direct curtailment of water use. The speakers will discuss some potential creative solutions that are already being considered.
Schroeder Law Offices, P.C. has been serving clients involved in water resource matters since 1991. Stix first joined the firm in 1993, becoming a shareholder in 2012. The firm’s practice includes water rights acquisitions, sales, contracts, easements, well share and water delivery agreements, adjudications, permitting, extensions, transfers, certification, regulatory compliance, and litigation of water rights disputes before state administrative bodies as well as State and Federal trial and appellate courts.
“Both Laura and Therese are leading experts in their field,” Harrison Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center, said. “How water use is allocated under prior appropriation systems impacts not just individual western states, but the entire western region of the United States.”
Learn more and register for the webinar here.