Interstate Water Compacts and Climate Change Adaptation
5 Environmental & Energy Law & Policy Journal 237 (2010)
89 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2013 Last revised: 19 Oct 2013
Date Written: December 30, 2010
Over 95% of the available surface freshwater resources in the United States are interstate in nature and governed by interstate water compacts. These interstate compacts vary tremendously in how they allocate and manage interstate waters. Until recently, the water resources governed by interstate compacts have been relatively stable and unaffected by drastic changes in long-term weather patterns. However, within the next few decades North America is expected to experience increased regional variability in precipitation and susceptibility to drought. This article first looks at these expected changes on a macro and regional level to evaluate the increased stress on water resources that is expected to arise in some watershed. Interstate compacts may be the most important legal consideration in assessing water supply risks from climate change, and this article provides a critical evaluation of every interstate water compact: how it works, the resources it governs, and the rights and responsibilities it assigns to the party states. The article then assesses the relative risk and legal uncertainty resulting from climate change for interstate water resources subject to interstate compacts. The article concludes with a comparative assessment of the watersheds most at risk from climate change and the interstate compacts most able to adapt to climate change.
Keywords: interstate compacts, climate change, water resources, water supply, water demand
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation