Water Rights and Environmental Regulation: A Lawyer’s Guide

August 2018

Co-author, American Bar Association


While state law almost exclusively governs the allocation of surface waters in the United States, there are also reserved rights, an important class of water rights created by federal law. This book discusses the impact of federal environmental law on the use of water resources.

Written by practitioners in private practice (including Downey Brand water law attorney Meredith Nikkel), government, and academia, each with extensive experience in the area, the book begins by looking at the rights to use water based on both state and federal law, as well as the issues involved in waters that cross state boundaries and in the shared control of water between the U.S. and Mexico and Canada. Further exploring the extent of federal environmental law impacts on water rights, the book discusses the federal agencies with major water use impacts, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies whose actions, particularly projects they operate or lands that they manage and regulate, have a considerable impact on state law water rights and the execution of water projects.

Central to any discussion of the federal impact on water rights are the major environmental laws. Individual chapters cover:

  • Endangered Species Act
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • The Clean Water Act
  • The Wilderness Act designations and the wild and scenic rivers designations
  • The National Environmental Policy Act

Finally, the book concludes by considering cases where water rights have been taken by governmental action without compensation.

You can learn more about this publication and purchase it at Shop ABA.