UACES Facebook May 18 webinar: Who has rights to the water when drought hits?
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May 18 webinar: Who has rights to the water when drought hits?

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.

May 10, 2022

By Will Clark
U of A System Division of Agriculture

 Fast facts:

  • National Agricultural Law Center webinar will offer overview of drought declarations in prior appropriation systems
  • Hourlong webinar begins May 18 at noon EDT/11 a.m. CDT/10 a.m. MDT/9 a.m. PDT
  • Register online at: https://bit.ly/3vv6mft

(486 words)

(With art at https://bit.ly/3kGNiWB; https://flic.kr/p/2njLAGc)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — 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.

Schroeder and Stix
WATER RIGHTS -- Laura A. Schroeder and Therese Ure Stix will discuss water rights in the context of the intest drought gripping the western United States in a May 18 webinar. (Image courtesy Schroeder Law Offices)

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: https://bit.ly/3vv6mft.

For more information on the National Agricultural Law Center, visit https://nationalaglawcenter.org/  or follow @Nataglaw on Twitter.

About the National Agricultural Law Center

The National Agricultural Law Center serves as the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information. The Center works with producers, state and federal policymakers, Congressional staffers, attorneys, land grant universities, and many others to provide objective, nonpartisan agricultural and food law research and information to the nation’s agricultural community.

The Center is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and works in close partnership with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, National Agricultural Library.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses. 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact 479-575-4607 as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. 

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Media Contact:
Will Clark                   
wwc001@uark.edu                
479-899-2673

 

 

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