Water law focuses on the development, allocation, use, and preservation of fresh water across and beneath the landscape. Its goal is to mediate interaction among humans seeking to use water and between humans and the water resource itself. The modern practice of water law requires not only an understanding of the judicial development of water law, but also the pervasive overlay of science-based agency administration, comprehensive water use statutory schemes, and adjudication. Similarly, because of the pervasive federal role in water resources development in the West, as well as the large amount of land and water owned by the United States and American Indian tribes, a modern water lawyer must understand that water law involves the interrelationship of three sovereigns: state, tribal, and federal government. Those entering the practice of water law today enter at a time when many water sources are fully appropriated, demand is increasing, and supply is less dependable due to climate change. Complicating matters, social values have shifted from solely viewing water as a commodity to be used and toward the recognition that instream (or "environmental") flows for a variety of purposes are an important water use.
This casebook is designed to help students navigate this complex field of law. It also introduces the increasing role of diplomacy and development of novel solutions to solve modern water law problems. The co-authors hope that this approach will inspire a new generation of water law students to play a positive role in contemporary western water law.