Water Law and Climate Disasters
18 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2017 Last revised: 24 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 23, 2017
Climate and water supply have always been intimately connected. As a result, a given society’s water law generally reflects climatic realities, including its most common climate disasters. In the future, however, water-related climate disasters are likely to increase in frequency and perhaps even change in kind, because some of the most-predicted consequences of climate change are impacts on water supply, although those impacts will vary from region to region.
This chapter examines the roles of water law in addressing three different forms of water-related climate disasters: drought, flooding, and coastal inundation. Each discussion begins with a closer examination of the relevant water-related climate predictions. From a legal perspective, however, the subject of water law and climate disasters is made more complex by the fact that water law systems themselves vary considerably. As such, two issues regarding the role of water law in climate disasters are likely to emerge as most critical: the extent to which a given water law system provides for flexibility in how water supplies are allocated; and the extent to which a given water law system both can adapt existing water supplies to changing ecological realities and can increase the short-term and long-term resilience of the overall water supply to the impacts of climate disasters.
Keywords: water law, climate change, drought, flood, coastal inundation
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