Indigenous Water Justice

22 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 841

81 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2017 Last revised: 20 Oct 2018

See all articles by Jason Robison

Jason Robison

University of Wyoming - College of Law

Barbara A. Cosens

University of Idaho - College of Law

Sue Jackson

Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University

Kelsey Leonard

McMaster University

Daniel McCool

University of Utah

Date Written: October 23, 2018


Indigenous Peoples are struggling for water justice across the globe. These struggles stem from centuries-long, ongoing colonial legacies and hold profound significance for Indigenous Peoples’ socioeconomic development, cultural identity, and political autonomy and external relations within nation-states. Ultimately, Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination is implicated. Growing out of a symposium hosted by the University of Colorado Law School and the Native American Rights Fund in June 2016, this Article expounds the concept of “indigenous water justice” and advocates for its realization in three major transboundary river basins: the Colorado (U.S./Mexico), Columbia (Canada/U.S.), and Murray-Darling (Australia). The Article begins with a novel conceptualization of indigenous water justice rooted in the historic United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)—specifically, UNDRIP’s foundational principle of self-determination. In turn, the Article offers overviews of the basins and narrative accounts of enduring water-justice struggles experienced by Indigenous Peoples therein. Finally, the Article synthesizes commonalities evident from the indigenous water justice struggles by introducing and deconstructing the concept of “water colonialism.” Against this backdrop, the Article revisits UNDRIP to articulate principles and prescriptions aimed at prospectively realizing indigenous water justice in the basins and around the world.

Suggested Citation

Robison, Jason and Cosens, Barbara A. and Jackson, Sue and Leonard, Kelsey and McCool, Daniel, Indigenous Water Justice (October 23, 2018). 22 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 841, Available at SSRN: or

Jason Robison (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming - College of Law ( email )

1000 E. University Ave.
Dept. 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States


Barbara A. Cosens

University of Idaho - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 442321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321
United States
208 885-6298 (Phone)
208 885-2859 (Fax)


Sue Jackson

Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University ( email )

170 Kessels Road
Nathan, Queensland QLD 4111

Kelsey Leonard

McMaster University ( email )

1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M4

Daniel McCool

University of Utah ( email )

1645 E. Campus Center
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

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