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date: 24 February 2024

Water Federalism in the United States of Americalocked

Water Federalism in the United States of Americalocked

  • Rebecca F.A. BernatRebecca F.A. BernatThe University of Arizona
  •  and Sharon B. MegdalSharon B. MegdalUniversity of Arizona

Summary

Water governance in the United States has followed a water federalism system, in which government functions are shared between federal and state authorities. Water federalism is the sharing of governance across different levels of government over freshwater quantity (water quantity federalism) and quality (water quality federalism). These terms have evolved throughout different eras of U.S. history. Initially, water federalism involved water quantity federalism only, and both state and federal governments had management prerogatives. The 1922 Colorado River Compact and the 1944 U.S. and Mexico Treaty are examples of a combination of horizontal and vertical federalisms. Then, the 1970s marked significant changes in water federalism. First, states regained control over water resources management. Second, water quality federalism arose as a subset of, and at the same time as, environmental federalism. The 1972 Clean Water Act is an example of cooperative federalism, which was commonly used to refer to environmental federalism. In the 21st century, a variety of environmental federalism frameworks have been offered to address the negative effects of climate change on water resources as well as other environmental issues. The contemporary literature on environmental federalism encompasses water quantity and water quality federalism. Throughout history, the role of American Indian tribal primacy has been overlooked in the water federalism literature. Another layer of government, the American Indian tribal government, should be included in discussing states versus federal water management prerogatives. Overall, new water quality and water quantity federalisms must be developed using institutional, sociocultural, and economic principles of good governance that foster a more inclusive, participatory, democratic, and engaged form of federalism.

Subjects

  • Management and Planning

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