American Bar Association
Water Resources

Water Resources

Message From The Co-Chairs

Welcome to SEER’s Water Resources Committee for the 2017-2018 bar year! Co-chairs Kyle Robisch and Andrea Clark are looking forward to working with the following Vice Chairs this year:

  • Committee Newsletter: Jeff Kray and David Gold
  • E-Communications: Kate Tipple and Emily Taylor
  • Membership: Scott Warner
  • Programs: Roger Sims and Nancye Bethurem
  • Social Media: Erica Spitzig and William Snape
  • Year in Review: Mitra Pemberton

Emily Taylor and Kate Tipple will be taking over our informative Team Website in its fifth year of providing Committee members with water law case summaries and Hot News. These summaries focus on water law cases and provide a great opportunity for law students and young lawyers to write. If you would like to contribute, such as by writing a case summary or volunteering as an editor, please contact Emily or Kate directly at or

We are also looking forward to SEER’s Fall Conference on October 18-21 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore, Maryland. Click here to find more information and register for the conference.

The 36th Annual SEER Water Law Conference will be held April 16-18, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. This is the same SEER Water Law Conference that used to be held in February in San Diego, and was held in Las Vegas in 2013 and 2014; Denver in 2015; Austin in 2016; and Los Angeles in 2017 in connection with SEER’s Spring Conference. The conferences are only possible with the help of the remarkable people on our planning committees. Thank you all!

Jeff Kray, Executive Editor of the Committee’s newsletter, continues to work hard on the multiple committee newsletters we will be publishing this year. He will be assisted by David Gold. If you have an article you would like to submit for consideration, please contact Jeff B. Kray at

We always welcome members to become involved in the Committee’s ongoing evolution, especially with respect to program suggestions and contributions to the Committee Newsletter. Contact us at or with any ideas you have about how the Water Resources Committee or SEER can better serve you, or if you want to be more involved. We are happy to help you figure out how best to contribute, and we look forward to hearing from you and working together this year!

Kyle Robisch and Andrea Clark
2017-2018 Co-Chairs, Water Resources Committee
ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

Committee Social Media

Recent Water Law Cases & Hot News

Recent Water Law Cases

You can visit the archived cases here.

Updated on June 12, 2018

John STURGEON v. Herbert FROST, 2017 WL 4341742 (3rd. Cir. October 2, 2017) By Jingwei Fan

On October 2, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Section 103(c) does not limit the National Park Service from applying a hovercraft ban on the Nation River in Yukon-Charley because the United States has an implied reservation of water rights, rendering the river public lands. Sturgeon v. Frost, 2017 WL 4341742 1, 1 (3rd. Cir. 2017).

Millennium Pipeline Company, L.L.C. v. Seggos, 860 F.3d 696 (D.C. Cir. 2017) By Caitlin Ceci

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has “original and exclusive jurisdiction” to review failures of state administrative agencies to act on permit requests under the Natural Gas Act of 1938 (NGA). See 15 U.S.C. §171(r)(d)(2). On June 23, 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court denied a petition for review brought by Millennium Pipeline L.L.C. (Millennium) to compel the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (the Department) to take action pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA) on an overdue petition. Millennium Pipeline Company v. Seggos, 860 F.3d 696, 698 (D.C. Cir. 2017). The Court found Millennium lacked standing to petition the court because even if the Department had unlawfully delayed taking action on the permit request, it “cause[d] Millennium no cognizable injury” and thus Millennium had not suffered an injury in fact. Id. at 698.

Hill v. Suwannee River Water Management District, 2017 WL 1382156 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Apr. 18, 2017) By Kayla Weiser

On April 18, 2017, the District Court of Appeal of Florida (1st Dist.) reversed the circuit court’s grant of final summary judgement for the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), holding that SRWMD was not entitled to quasi-judicial immunity with respect to a landowner’s takings claim. Hill v. Suwannee River Water Management District, 2017 WL 1382156 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Apr. 18, 2017).

Sierra Club v. County of Sonoma, 11 Cal. App. 5th 11 (2017) By Emily Taylor

On April 21, 2017, the First Appellate District Court of Appeal of California held that the Agricultural Commissioner of Sonoma County had properly determined that issuing an erosion-control permit under the county’s Grading, Drainage, and Vineyard and Orchard Site Development Ordinance (“the Ordinance”) was a “ministerial” act, and therefore not subject to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Sierra Club v. Cty. of Sonoma, 11 Cal. App. 5th 11 (2017).

Natural Resources Defense Council v. Norton, 2017 WL 735687 (E. D. Cal. Feb. 23, 2017) By Connor Plant

In February 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California addressed a complaint claiming that the renewal, implementation, and approval by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of certain long-term water contracts (contracts) in California violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Id at *1. The challenge was brought by a coalition of environmental interest groups led by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC). The court discusses two of the plaintiff’s arguments: a) the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation failed to reinitiate consultation on the alleged impact on the ESA listed winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon; and b) the contract renewal amounts to an unlawful “take.” Id. The defendants brought 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss both claims. Id. at *9.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District 849 F.3d 1262 No. 15-55896 (9th Cir. March 7, 2017) By Vanessa Zapata

On March 7, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (the Tribe) impliedly reserved the right to groundwater in California’s Coachella Valley when the United States created the Tribe’s reservation. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water Dist., 849 F.3d 1262, 1265 (9th Cir. 2017).

Friends of Great Salt Lake, et al. v. Utah Department of Natural Resources 2017 WL 1024614 (Utah March 15, 2017) By Megan M. Mustoe

In March 2017, the Utah Supreme Court largely denied a challenge from Friends of Great Salt Lake, et al. (Friends) against the Utah Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) denial of Friends’ petition to DNR to: (1) conduct a consistency review of DNR’s record of decision regarding a lease on the Great Salt Lake (reversed and remanded); (2) redo its analysis or take site-specific analysis in relation to the lease (affirmed); and (3) write a declaratory order on the correct applicability of Utah’s Public Trust Constitutional clause and correlating statute (affirmed).

Board of Water Works of Des Moines v. SAC County Board of Supervisors 2017 WL 382402 No. 16-0076 (Iowa Jan. 27, 2017) By Dustin Davis

On January 27, 2017 the Supreme Court of Iowa answered four certified questions of law from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. Board of Water Works of Des Moines v. SAC Country Board of Supervisors, No. 16-0076 at 1 (Iowa 2017).

Hawkes Co., Inc. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers 2017 WL 359170 Civil No. 13-107 ADM/TNL (D. Minn. Jan. 24, 2017) By Stephanie Biggs

Hawkes is a peat mining company that plans to mine 150 acres of wetlands (the Wetlands) from a 530-acre plot. Hawkes Co., Inc. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Civil No. 13-107 AD/TNL at 1. The operation would involve discharging materials into the Wetlands. Id. The Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits discharge of materials into “navigable waters” without a permit and gives the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) authority to issue permits for these discharges. Id. The Corps determines whether a wetland qualifies as “waters of the United States” using the “significant nexus” test outlined in Rapanos v. United States 547 U.S. 715, 778-82 (2006) (Kennedy, J., concurring). Id. A significant nexus is found if the wetlands in question significantly affect the physical, biological, or chemical integrity of the navigable waters. Id. at 2.

Upper Trinity Regional Water District and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality v. National Wildlife Federation, 2017 WL 372166 (Tx. Ct. App. Jan. 26, 217) By Connor Plant

In January 2017, the Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (1st Dist.) rejected a challenge from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) issuance of an interbasin water transfer permit to Upper Trinity Regional Water District, a wholesale water provider serving approximately 30 cities and utilities in the northern part of Texas. Upper Trinity Regional Water District and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality v. National Wildlife Federation, 2017 WL 372166.

Gunderson v. State 2016 WL 7125255 (Dec. 7, 2016) By Erica M. Davis

On April 4, 2014, plaintiffs Don and Bobbie Gunderson (“Gunderson”), owners of three lots of property on Lake Michigan in Long Beach, Indiana, sought a declaratory judgment that their property always extends to the water’s edge The State of Indiana and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”), is joined by Alliance for the Great Lakes and Save the Dunes (“Alliance-Dunes”) and Long Beach Community Alliance (“LBCA”), who intervened in the case. Defendants argued that regardless of whether the land is covered by water at any given moment, all land up to the ordinary high water mark (“OHWM”) is held in trust for the public. Essentially, the issue was determining what rights exist when private and public titles to coastal land overlap. The court first determined whether public rights exist and then, finding that they do exist, considered their scope.

In re Hibbing Taconite Mine and Stockpile Progression 2016 WL 7042000 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2016) By Rebecca Ricard

The Court of Appeals of Minnesota (Court) ruled that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not have the statutory authority to allow “permit to mine” applicants to reserve credits in project-specific wetlands replacement plans for use in later mining activities. In re Hibbing Taconite Mine and Stockpile Progression, No. A16-0363, 2016 WL 7042000 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2016). Those credits needed to be deposited into the State wetlands bank under a wetland banking plan, which is subject to oversight by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). Id.

Natural Resources Defense Council v. County of Los Angeles 2016 US App. LEXIS 19541 (9th Cir. 2016) By Carol Ryan Humphries

On October 31, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the United States District Court for the Central District of California’s (“District Court”) dismissal of the claim for injunctive relief filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Santa Monica Baykeepers (“Plaintiffs”) against the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (“Defendants”) for violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit. The District Court had granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief as moot. NRDC v. Cnty. of L.A., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 19541, at *2 (9th Cir. Oct. 31, 2016).

Natural Resources Defense Council v. McCarthy 2016 LEXIS 152898 No. 16-cv-02184-JST (N.D. Cal. Nov. 3, 2016) By Stephanie Biggs

On August 10, 2016 the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority (“Proposed Intervenors”) moved to intervene in a case brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Bay Institute, and Defenders of Wildlife (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and EPA Region IX (collectively, “Defendants”).Natural Resources Defense Council v. McCarthy, No. 16-cv-02184-JST at 2–3 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 3, 2016). Plaintiffs opposed this motion to intervene; Defendants did not. The Court granted this motion and Proposed Intervenors’ motions for judicial notice of certain agency documents and public records. Id. at 2, 5–6.

California Dept. of Water Res. v. United States 2016 WL 5795800 (Oct. 4, 2016) By Erica M. Davis

On December 22, 2015, the California Department of Water Resources (“CDWR”) filed a breach of contract action seeking $10,473,957 in damages from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (“USBR”) and the Western Area Power Administration (“WAPA”). These damages arose from charges the CDWR incurred through payments to the California Independent Systems Operator (“CAISO”) to schedule energy for delivery to water storage and distribution facilities—specifically the Joint-Use Facilities and the Banks Pumping Plant—in the State of California on behalf of the USBR. Since the CDWR paid a wide range of fees and penalties on behalf of the USBR, plaintiff claimed there is a contractual obligation pursuant to the Contracts Dispute Act (“CDA”), 41 U.S.C. §§ 7101-09.

In re EPA & Dep't of Def. Final Rule 817 F.3d 261 (6th Cir. 2016) By Rebecca Ricard

In an important win for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Court”) denied multiple motions to dismiss the action against the agencies’ Clean Water Rule (“Rule”). The Rule’s intent was to clarify the scope of what constitutes “waters of the United States.” In re U.S. Dept. of Defense, 817 F.3d 261, 263 (6th Cir. Feb. 22, 2016). Multiple petitioners had filed motions to dismiss, arguing that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction under 33 U.S.C. 1369 et al. (“Clean Water Act”). Id. Under the Clean Water Act, circuit courts only have direct jurisdiction over certain specified actions of the EPA Administrator (“Administrator”). The Court found it had jurisdiction over this case through a de novo review of Subsections (E) and (F) of the Clean Water Act.

Reading Area Water Authority. v. Schuylkill River Greenway Association 2014 WL 4745698 (Pa. Sept. 24, 2014) By John Hunt

In 2010, the Reading Area Water Authority (“RAWA”), a municipal authority in Reading, Pennsylvania, filed a Declaration of Taking Complaint against the Schuylkill River Greenway Association (“the Greenway”) in Berks County common pleas court, in which RAWA requested a decree condemning a 50-foot-wide easement across the Greenway’s property.

Alt v. United States Environmental Protection Agency 758 F.3d 588 (4th Cir. July 14, 2014) By Sabrina Williams

On July 14, 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia denying the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (“CBF”) motion to intervene in a poultry farmer’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”).

Hot News

You can visit the archived news here. If you've seen a recent news story you would like us to share, please contact Emily Taylor.

Judge Appoints Special Master in Flint Water Contamination Case – June 20, 2018
Compiled by: William C. Ladd
Federal District Judge Judith Levy, after declining to grant dueling motions to remove counsel in the Flint, Michigan water contamination case, appointed a special master to review the attorneys’ fees and expenses. Ted Leopold and Michael Pitt, co-lead counsel for a consolidated class action, submitted a motion to remove Hunter Shkolnik from his post as co-liaison counsel to the individual cases on claims that Shkolnik was luring prospective class members into signing illegal retainer agreements. Shkolnik responded with a motion to remove Leopold and Pitt on claims that their motion to remove him was a “blatant money grab.” Judge Levy did not explain her reasoning behind leaving the Flint leadership intact, but did indicate she would request Deborah Greenspan, of Blank Rome, to serve as special master. Greenspan has served as special master in other high profile cases, including that of Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and the 9/11 victims compensation fund.

Five Things to Know about Efforts to Repeal Obama’s Water Rule – June 24, 2018
Compiled by: William C. Ladd
The Trump administration is continuing in its attempts to repeal the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule, or the WOTUS (Waters of the United States) Rule, by taking the next step in its plan to repeal-and-replace the rule. The 2015 rule redefined the scope of the federal government’s authority to prevent water pollution. The rule stemmed from the famous, and highly fractured, 2006 Supreme Court decision Rapanos v. United States. Obama instructed the US EPA to follow Justice Kennedy’s opinion and regulate water with a “significant nexus” to already protected water. Trump, in contrast, has instructed the US EPA to follow Justice Scalia’s opinion, which would regulate only “relatively permanent” waterways.

California’s New Water Rationing Law is a Tax in Disguise, Complete with Fines – June 13, 2018
Compiled by: William C. Ladd
A new bill recently signed into law in California will limit per capita residential water consumption, beginning in 2022, to 55 gallons per day, assessing fines for violation of this limit. The limit is set to gradually drop to 50 gallons per person by 2030. The fines will be assessed on a district-wide basis, meaning a compliant individual will have to pay for others’ non-compliance. According to the US Department of the Interior, the average daily individual water consumption for necessary activities is 80-100 gallons per day, leading some to conclude this new law is simply a tax in disguise.

Conservation Law Foundation Sues Over Alleged Water Pollution at Devens – June 20, 2018
Compiled by: William C. Ladd
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has filed a federal suit over pollution from the former Fort Devens Army base. CLF alleged Clean Water Act violations stemming from chemicals discharged without proper permits. The suit names MassDevelopment and Devens Enterprise Commission, the owners of the former base, which is now home to over 100 companies and 4,500 workers.

Water Dispute between Manitoba and North Dakota Moves Closer to a Resolution – June 8, 2018
Compiled by: Benjamin Nicols

A resolution may be nearing for a 16-year long dispute between the Province of Manitoba and the United States regarding a proposed water project that would bring drinking water to tens of thousands of people in Northwestern North Dakota. A District Court ruling last August held that the $244 million project complied with federal and state environmental regulations. Manitoba has appealed this decision. The dispute began in 2002 when Manitoba province expressed concern that the water project may transfer harmful bacteria to the Hudson Bay Basin, the resolution to which will be Manitoba officials needing some oversight for the project. While the dispute between Manitoba and North Dakota may be ending, Missouri joined the suit in 2009 and any final resolution must address their concerns as well.

California Drinking Water Tax Dies in Budget Compromise – June 8, 2018
Compiled by: Benjamin Nicols

A proposed tax on California’s drinking water has been abandoned by Governor Jerry Brown as part of a state budget compromise. Residents of California would have been taxed 95 cents per month while agricultural taxes would have been raised another $30 million each year. The tax would have raised an estimated $140 million to address a widespread problem in the state: more than a quarter million Californians are served by water systems that are in violation of state standards. Brown’s administration has not given up on a water tax in the future, however, and supporters of the water tax are hopeful the issue will eventually be addressed.

Arizona Water Provider Approves Record-Low-Cost Solar PPA to Replace Coal – June 8, 2018
Compiled by: Benjamin Nicols

The Central Arizona Project, a municipal water agency that provides water to 5 million Arizonans, has voted to begin receiving a portion of its power from a new solar installation. The 20-year deal will provide power at $24.99 per megawatt for the entirety of the agreement’s 20-year duration. This price is the lowest confirmed price to date for large scale solar power agreements. The shift to solar power will also help replace the power coming from the Navajo Generating station, a coal fired power plant set to close in 2019. The competitive prices in Arizona indicate a shift towards solar power as prices continue to drop with technological progress.

Opponents File Legal Challenge to Racine's Bid to Use Water from Lake Michigan for Foxconn – May 25, 2018
Compiled by: Benjamin Nicols

A decision by the Department of Natural Resources will allow the City of Racine, Wisconsin to divert millions of gallons a day from Lake Michigan for use by large corporations, including technology giant Foxconn. Opponents of the agency’s decision claim the decision violates the 2008 Great Lakes Compact which aims to safeguard the resources of the Great Lakes Basin. The agreement provides that any new diversions of water from the basin must be for “public water supply purposes” which would serve “largely residential customers.” The agreement between Racine and Foxconn would primarily serve a new Foxconn campus that is expected to be three times the size of the Pentagon. The petition against the deal argues that allowing this diversion for non-residential use sets a precedent for “multiple, non-compliant, withdrawal requests.”

Eyeglass Lens Maker Fined $750K for Dumping in Oregon Sewer System—Apr. 24, 2018
Compiled by: Claire Johnson

Carl Zeiss Vision, an eyeglass lens manufacturer, was fined $750,000 by a federal judge for repeatedly dumping metallic waste into an Oregon sewer system and operating without a Clean Water Act permit for three years. The sewer system in question feeds into the Clackamas County water service system. EPA investigators found that the liquid dumped by the company into the system contained toxic metals like cadmium and lead.

EPA Grants $4 Million to Fight Lead in Drinking Water—Apr. 25, 2018
Compiled by: Claire Johnson

The EPA granted $4 million to Virginia Tech and the Water Research Foundation for research on lead contamination. Virginia Tech, led by Dr. Marc Edwards, plans to use its grant to create a “consumer-based framework” for detecting and controlling lead in drinking water. The Water Research Foundation will use its funding to create a risk-based model for identifying opportunities to mitigate lead exposure.

Federal Judge Dismisses Suit Over EPA Delay of Power Plant Rule—Apr. 18, 2018
Compiled by: Claire Johnson

Judge Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s decision to delay an Obama rule curbing toxic wastewater discharges from power plants. The suit, brought by environmentalists, alleged that the EPA failed to make necessary findings and consider all relevant factors to support its decision to stay the rule. The court found the suit was moot because the EPA withdrew the stay of the rule in September 2017 and issued a new delay rule. Judge Friedrich would not allow the plaintiffs to add the new delay rule to their complaint and found that review of the delay rule belonged in the courts of appeals under the Clean Water Act.

Colorado and Nebraska will Settle Old Water Dispute -- Courthouse News Service, Feb. 23, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs
Colorado will pay Nebraska $4 million to settle claims involving overuse of water from the Republican River Basin in exchange for Nebraska’s promise not to sue Colorado for any violations of the Republican River Compact that occurred before 2014. Subject to approval by the two states’ legislatures, the payment is due by December 31. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman stated that the money would be earmarked for surface water projects that will bolster water management plans in the basin. The river basin has been a frequent subject of litigation, including a 2014 Supreme Court judgment that ordered Nebraska to pay $5.5 million to Kansas for its own excessive water use upriver.

Californians are Struggling to Pay for Rising Water Rates -- News Deeply, Feb. 27, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs

Many California residents, in both small towns and big cities, are struggling to keep up with the rising price of water. The State Water Resources Control Board has been tasked with coming up with a plan to tackle affordability, but it has been slow going. Max Gomberg, the State Water Resources Control Board’s climate and conservation manager, says the price of water has increased at six times the rate of inflation across the state. State senator Bill Dodd, a Democrat from Napa, recently introduced legislation that would make it more difficult for utilities to abruptly discontinue service for customers unable to pay their water bills. Dodd’s proposed law, Senate Bill 998, seeks to model California’s water deliveries more like electricity and phone services, where failure to pay bills may result in soft enforcement – first warnings, followed by opportunities to appeal and probably fines. Only as a last resort, he explains, do phone and electricity providers terminate service.

San Jose Water Users, Cut Off During Drought, Win a Round in Court -- Record Net, Feb. 21, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs

Last Wednesday, a judge in Santa Clara, CA found that thousands of water-right holders who were told to cease diversions during the last drought were deprived of due process, thus raising questions about how the state will handle future shortages. Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh ruled that the water users, including some mostly agricultural districts in the Delta, were not afforded “certain minimal protections” like formal hearings in which they might have challenged the state’s claim that there wasn’t enough water available. The judge also found that water districts that enjoy senior water rights — issued more than a century ago — cannot be cut off at all under the section of state water law that previously had been cited by authorities.

For Michigan Farmers (and Nestlé), Bill Makes Big Water Withdrawals Easier, and Info Secret -- Bridge MI, Feb. 28, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs

House Republicans want to overhaul Michigan’s water withdrawal laws in order to make it easier to gain permission to draw large volumes of groundwater while shielding from the public data related to agricultural water use. Shaped by the Michigan Farm Bureau, the legislation has drawn fierce pushback from environmentalists who say it would eviscerate protections for rivers and streams vulnerable to heavy water withdrawals. Introduced by Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, with 24 other Republicans, the bill would soften regulations for “large quantity” water withdrawals of 100,000 gallons or more per day, allowing users to avoid Department of Environmental Quality reviews in some cases.

Idaho Bill Clarifies Who Owns Stock Watering Rights on Federal Land -- Capital Press, Feb. 20, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs

A bill that would further codify in state law a landmark Idaho Supreme Court decision on who owns stock watering rights on federally administered land has been sent to the House floor with a “do-pass” recommendation. Siding with two Owyhee County ranchers in a case known as the Joyce Livestock decision, the court ruled in 2007 that the federal government cannot be the owner of these rights because it does not own the cattle, and therefore cannot put the water to beneficial use.

U.S. Absence from Water War a 'Mystery' to Breyer - January 8, 2018
Compiled by: Vanessa Zapata

The Army Corps of Engineers' has refused to formally intervene in the Supreme Court water dispute between Florida and Georgia. This was a key reason why the special master recommended the Supreme Court deny Florida's request to place a consumption cap on the state. The Court also heard oral arguments for the Texas-New Mexico water dispute on January 8th. In that case the government has sought to be a formal party because of "several interests at stake," even though it wasn't a signatory to a 1938 compact to apportion water in the Rio Grande Basin.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Water Dispute Between Florida, Georgia - January 9, 2018
Compiled by: Vanessa Zapata

The state of Florida is suing Georgia alleging that Atlanta and South Georgia are consuming too much water and are thereby hurting Florida's fishing industry in the Florida Panhandle, specifically the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. The Court designated Ralph Lancaster as special master to hear evidence in the case. Lancaster does not believe that limiting Georgia's water use would actually fix Florida's suffering industry because the Army Corps of Engineers decides how much water flows out of the dams in the disputed river system. Lancaster claims that capping Georgia's water use would not change that amount.

Will SC Rivers Run Dry? Weak State Law Helps Mega Farms but Hurts Public - January 11, 2018
Compiled by: Vanessa Zapata

Property owners from Greenville and Bamberg counties in South Carolina sued the state four years ago hoping to invalidate a 2010 law that lets industrial-scale farms withdraw large amounts of water with little oversight. In July, 2017 the Supreme Court ruled against the property owners but agreed to reconsider the case allowing a hearing on January 11th. The key issue is whether the 2010 law contains measures that protect rivers for the public. Armstrong, a lawyer for the nonprofit S.C. Environmental Law Project says that the big problem is the state does not have the control to reallocate and ensure availability of water if and when it is needed by the public.

River Advocates Optimistic About Florida vs. Georgia Water Dispute - January 12, 2018
Compiled by: Vanessa Zapata

The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River basin is the river system at issue in what some have called a "common sense" case between Florida and Georgia. Florida is asking the court to equal the playing field and put a cap on Georgia's consumption on this river basin. However, it is the federal government that has control over the management, dams and reservoirs and it has declined formal intervention in this suit. It is unclear if the Court could make the Army Corps of Engineers give Florida more water. River advocates are not only concerned about the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay but are also concerned about the whole bay ecosystem.

Caught on Video: Is it Okay to Dump Snow in the Creek? - January 21, 2018
Compiled by: Vanessa Zapata
New state guidelines in New York say that disposal of excess snow in a creek or river should never be the first choice but it is allowable under some circumstances. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued this guidelines last July after recognizing that more and more municipalities were engaging in this practice. The concern is that the collected snow contains contaminants that will pollute waterways. However, DEC guidelines are not easily enforced and compliance is voluntary.

As Fish Disappear, Trump Administration Seeks to Pump More California Water South – January 2, 2018
Compiled by: Will Ladd

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation proposal to “maximize water deliveries” to Southern
California is President Trump’s first attempt to fulfill a campaign promise he made to farmers in the region. Farmers support the proposal, characterizing current water restrictions as prioritizing fish over people. However, environmentalists contend increased pumping will further endanger already dwindling fish populations. The proposal will probably be opposed by California officials under the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws, which requires the Bureau of Reclamation to obey California environmental law. The Bureau will spend the next year reviewing the environmental impact and state and local perspectives before moving forward.

Big Unknowns: What Legal Marijuana Means for Water in Western States – January 3, 2018
Compiled by: Will Ladd

Over the past four years six states have legalized use of marijuana. With the rise of legalization, and differences between states, the regulatory structure is neither well-defined, nor cohesive. And due to marijuana’s previous illegality almost no data exists to give predictions of water requirements or resulting pollution. States have focused on how to tax the new industry, not how to regulate it, leaving a rapidly expanding industry with unexpected impacts and regulators scrambling to catch up.

Trump Aims to Open California, Florida, Atlantic Waters for Oil Drilling – January 4, 2018
Compiled by: Will Ladd

The Department of Interior has proposed to open offshore areas for drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, while also relaxing safety regulations enacted after the BP oil spill. Some applaud the move, pointing out benefits to industry and contending the proposal supports U.S. energy power. However, the proposal has also met with strong opposition from states seeking to protect their natural resources and the tourism they bring. Notably Florida Governor Rick Scott, generally a supporter of the President’s agenda, has asked for Florida’s coastline’s to be excluded from the proposal. Opposition from Pacific states has been equally resolute. Even if the proposal is approved it remains unclear if companies will pursue the opportunity, given the expense and uncertain outcomes of offshore drilling.

Oregon Protects a Wild River Watershed Under Rarely Used Law – December 26, 2017
Compiled by: Will Ladd

Conservationists succeeded in protecting the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries as an “Outstanding Natural Resource Water” under the Clean Water Act. Such “Resource Waters” are determined so pristine, that any pollution of them is prohibited. This designation prohibits a planned mine in the area and, conservationists hope, future industrial activity indefinitely, but still allows for recreation on the river. The designation, which applies only to the Oregon side of the river, is possible to reverse but experts believe this to be unlikely.

Florida vs. Georgia Water War Heads to the U.S. Supreme Court – January 6, 2018
Compiled by: Will Ladd

The case arises from a dispute over water flow into the Apalachicola River. Florida contends Georgia is using too much water, and a cap should be imposed to protect estuaries and the oyster industry in Florida. Georgia opposes the cap, holding it would imperil water supply in Atlanta and cripple the agricultural industry in the southwestern area of the state. A legal question raised by Florida is whether the special master, Ralph Lancaster, a Portland, Maine lawyer, erred by applying a clear and convincing evidentiary standard when considering Florida’s support for a new water distribution plan. Colorado, concerned over the implications for water deals in the west, joined Georgia’s contention that a clear and convincing standard was appropriate. The Supreme Court will hear oral Arguments Monday, January 9, 2018.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear California Water Agencies’ Appeal in Tribe's Groundwater Case - Nov. 27, 2017
Compiled by: Gabe Quistorff

The Supreme Court has announced that it will not hear an appeal by California water agencies in the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ landmark lawsuit asserting right to groundwater beneath the tribe’s reservation. The appeal followed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the tribe’s right to the groundwater dated back to the federal government’s creation of the reservation in the 1870s. The decision is expected to have far-reaching effects for Indian water rights throughout the West and to strengthen other tribes’ positions in negotiations and court battles.

GOP Crafts Spending Bill Provisions Aimed at Speeding Repeal of Water Protection Rule - Nov. 30, 2017
Compiled by: Gabe Quistorff
House and Senate Republicans have inserted language into spending bills aimed at blocking legal challenges to the Trump administration’s effort to repeal the 2015 Waters of the United States water protection rule that could affect regulation of streams and tributaries. President Trump signed an executive order in February instructing the agencies to abolish the rule. The provisions authorize the EPA and the Army Corps to pull back the rule “without regard to any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such withdrawal,” which, legislative experts say, could block challenges filed under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Lawsuit Seeks to Block California Desert Water Project - Nov. 28, 2017
Compiled by: Gabe Quistorff

Environmental activists have sued the Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cadiz Inc. to move ahead with plans to pump water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities and counties. The plan involves construction of a 43-mile pipeline that will transfer water from the desert wells into the Colorado River Aqueduct. The BLM’s approval of the plan follows the Trump administration’s reversal of an Obama-era rule that blocked construction of the pipeline.

Loyola Law Students Push for International Ruling on Flint Water Crisis - Nov. 30, 2017
Compiled by: Gabe Quistorff

Loyola New Orleans law students have filed a petition aiming to place the U.S. government before an international tribunal on charges of committing multiple human rights violations that led to Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. The 85-page petition further alleges violation of democratic rights through the unelected appointment of emergency managers who used broad executive powers to overrule elected representatives. The petition will be reviewed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which will determine whether a hearing is appropriate.

GAO To Review Whether EPA, Pruitt Violated Anti-Propaganda Laws in Attack on WOTUS - Nov. 6, 2017
Compiled by Claire Johnson

The Government Accountability Office responded to a request from House Democrats to review whether EPA chief Scott Pruitt illegally used EPA funds to lobby against Obama’s Waters of the United States Rule. GOA agreed to investigate Pruitt’s participation in a video produced by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which called on members to file comments with the EPA to revise WOTUS. In the video, Pruitt explained his objections to the rule. At issue is whether his participation was funded by EPA; the agency is prohibited from using its resources to lobby Congress on ongoing legislative matters or to fund propaganda.

Trump Administration Proposes Delay for WOTUS Rule - Nov. 16, 2017
Compiled by Claire Johnson

The Trump Administration, via the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, proposed an amendment which would push back implementation of Obama’s Clean Water Act rule until 2020. Officials claim the amendment would allow time to reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States” and “provide clarity and consistency” as the Supreme Court considers whether challenges to WOTUS belong in federal appellate or district court, and whether the 6th Circuit nationwide stay of the rule will stand.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments in Interstate Water Disputes - Nov. 17, 2017
Compiled by Claire Johnson

The Supreme Court announced that it will hear two cases involving disputes over interstate allocation of water resources on January 8, 2018. In the first case, Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, Texas will argue that New Mexico is violating the Rio Grande Compact by diverting water before it reaches Texas. The second case, Florida v. Georgia, involves a dispute between the two states over the Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee River Basin and alleged overconsumption by the state of Georgia.

Chicago To Sue U.S. Steel Over Toxic Spills - Nov. 20, 2017
Compiled by Claire Johnson

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel threatened to sue U.S. Steel after one of its plants in Indiana spilled toxic metal into a waterway less than twenty miles from a Lake Michigan water intake. This spill marked the second time this year that the plant discharged chromium above the legal limit. Emanuel criticized the EPA’s “silence” over the issue, while U.S. Steel denies that the spills posed “any danger to the water supply or human health.” The city’s threat to sue is based off of similar action taken by lawyers from the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago.

Controversial Cadiz Water Pipeline Gets OK from Federal Government – Oct. 16, 2017
Compiled by Will Ladd

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently undone a 2015 ruling requiring federal approval before Cadiz, Inc. could run a proposed water pipeline across federal land. The approval process would have required lengthy environmental review and could have imposed significant restrictions on Cadiz’s plans to pump groundwater from its desert holdings 200 miles east of Los Angeles and sell it to Southland communities. However, this new BLM decision will likely be challenged in the courts. Additionally, the California lands commission recently informed the company that the right-of-way crosses a 200-foot-wide strip of state-owned land — meaning that to use it, Cadiz will need a lease from the state.

Bill Would Hit Nestle with $20M Annual State Bottled Water Tax– Oct. 19, 2017
Compiled by Will Ladd

Michigan state Representative Peter Lucido has proposed a bill (House Bill 5133) that would tax bottled water producers 5-cents per gallon. If passed, the bill would hit Nestle, the state’s largest bottled-water producer, with nearly $20 million in annual taxes. Currently Nestle pays only paperwork fees and does not pay for the water extracted. Lucido suggests the proceeds could be used to upgrade Michigan’s water and sewer systems.

Water Contamination Class Action Filed in NC by Flint Lawyer – Oct. 25, 2017
Compiled by Will Ladd

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, a D.C. based firm, has filed a class action suit in North Carolina against E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. and The Chemours Co. over drinking water contamination. The suit alleges water contamination from dumping chemical C8 into the Cape Fear River. This suit is the fourth brought and has prompted regulators to take action to prevent further contamination.

Audit Delivers New Hit to California Water Tunnels Project - Oct. 5, 2017
According to state auditors, California's water managers appear to have violated state law when they hired a consultant to help plan Gov. Jerry Brown's $16 billion project to build two massive water tunnels east of San Francisco to deliver water from the Sacramento River mostly to farms and cities hundreds of miles away in central and Southern California. The auditors also faulted the state Department of Water Resources for not finishing a cost-benefit analysis, especially in light of the climbing price of the tunnels.

After Legal Fight, Water District Given OK to Issue Brightline Permits - Oct. 2, 2017
Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter signed off on an environmental permit that All Aboard Florida’s Brightline needs to build the second phase of its higher speed rail project connecting its West Palm Beach station to Orlando. In a 51-page order, ALJ Canter recommended the South Florida Water Management District move forward with a permit modification that would allow Brightline to construct and operate a stormwater management system. Under the permit changes, the company would also be able to make culvert and bridge modifications and other improvements at 23 roadway crossings between West Palm Beach and the northern border of St. Lucie County.

Judge Throws Out Well Permits While Ordering Wisconsin DNR to Consider Impacts of Heavy Water Use - Oct. 11, 2017
A Dane County judge ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must take into account the cumulative impacts of high-capacity wells on other water resources, as evidence by recent cases where she invalidated seven permits approved by the agency last year. The judge held the DNR had ample authority to set limits on well applications to protect drinking water supplies, lakes, and streams that might be imperiled by heavy water use. The case highlights a longstanding controversy, especially in central Wisconsin, over high-capacity wells and their impact on waterways and aquatic life where there is heavy groundwater use by vegetable growers.

Lawyers Consolidate Flint Water Class-Action Suit - Oct. 2, 2017

Attorneys for 21 law firms have filed a consolidated class-action lawsuit against two engineering firms, Flint city officials, and state officials, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former State Treasurer Andy Dillon, over Flint’s lead-contaminated water. In June, Federal Judge Judith Levy ruled that Flint residents have sufficiently argued that the conduct of government officials “was so egregious as to shock the conscience” — a key legal standard of proof in the case. Levy ordered the lawyers to consolidate the arguments after she dismissed other parts of the lawsuit.

West Virginia Supreme Court Ruling Could Block Citizen Suits Against Mines - Oct. 6, 2017

A new West Virginia Supreme Court ruling could give coal operations some leverage to block citizens from seeking help from the courts when mining contaminates or eliminates their drinking water supply. Earlier last week, the state justices issued an unanimous ruling that threw out a Wyoming County Circuit Court decision that the state Department of Environmental Protection could order a local mining operation to provide a replacement water supply for more than two-dozen families in the affected area. The justices held that Wyoming Circuit Judge was wrong to order the DEP to take that action.

TVA Files Appeal of Court Order to Remove Coal Ash from Gallatin Fossil Plant - Oct. 2, 2017

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said it plans to appeal a federal court ruling that ordered it to dig up and remove coal ash buried at TVA's Gallatin Fossil Plant in Middle Tennessee. TVA argues the court-ordered method of cleanup for coal residues at Gallatin would take up to 24 years and cost $550 million using a lined landfill onsite, or up to $2 billion and possibly an extended timeline with an offsite landfill. TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said capping and storing the coal ash where it is now would likely cost only about $200 million and would still be as effective in limiting water pollution.

Mega-Farms Suffer Blow in State Supreme Court - Sept. 29, 2017

The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to rehear a case challenging the rights of large commercial farms to draw large amounts of water from local rivers without permits. The 3-1 decision to rehear the case would potentially allow the court to overturn its decision in July to uphold a section of the state’s surface water law allowing corporate farms to siphon large amounts of water from rivers without state permits and with limited state oversight. Environmental groups urge that the move is necessary to prevent rivers from being drained given a recent influx of large commercial farms into the state.

Private Water Firms Tap Profit From Struggling Public Utilities - Sept. 28, 2017

As many public utilities face capital shortages, private water firms have begun to move into newly expanding markets. Some local politicians have begun to question whether the water needs of their constituents are best served by public utilities or the private sector in the wake events like Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. Several factors, including the rising costs of upgrading infrastructure, the costs of complying with water regulations, and a recent wave of state legislation have created opportunities for private water firms to step in.

Donovan Challenges Legality of EPA’s Rollback of Clean Water Protections - Sept. 29, 2017

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is part of a coalition of nine Attorneys General challenging the EPA’s proposed repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The coalition argues the repeal is arbitrary and capricious. The coalition further argues that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s involvement in the repeal is illegal due to his previous effort as Oklahoma Attorney General to void the rule. The coalition consists of Attorneys General of New York, California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Public Interest Groups Decry EPA's Utility-Friendly Move on Coal Ash - Oct. 1, 2017

Environmental public interest groups struggle to adapt to a seemingly uncooperative new administration within the EPA. The comment period for new state coal ash management guidelines was cut short earlier this September via last-minute rescindment of a previously granted extension, giving such groups little notice (a matter of hours) to provide meaningful input. Such tactics for minimizing public input, activists allege, have become par for the course under EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s direction. Some accuse the EPA of cozying up to utilities in crafting its new guidelines.

Water: Legal, yet Lethal?- Sept. 28, 2017

In the wake of hurricane Harvey, increased attention has been afforded to Texas water quality. However, some scientists suggest that Texans were drinking carcinogenic pollutants long before any of the recent hurricanes made landfall. Some of these pollutants fall within a class of contaminants known to cause adverse health effects, but that remain unregulated. Political observers worry that under the current administration, little will change in that respect.

Federal Suits in Houston Follow in Wake of Harvey - Sept. 12, 2017

At least three federal lawsuits, along with several state court suits, have been filed following the flooding of homes as a result of the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to release water from the dams at Addicks and Barker reservoirs in Houston during hurricane Harvey. The Army Corp decided to release water from the dams when the deluge of rain water from Harvey caused water to flow “around the end of the dam in an uncontrolled fashion.” By releasing the water, officials hoped to protect the integrity of the dam and continue its operation. In the complaints filed, homeowners argue that the decision to release the water, protecting some homes and not others, is a constitutional taking requiring just compensation. It is unclear how a court might rule in this type of case.

Ninth Circuit Rules For Tribe in River Management Case - Sept. 13, 2017

The Ninth Circuit found that the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe was entitled “to recoup more than 8,000 acre-feet of water” that was improperly diverted from the Truckee River in the 1980s by the Truckee Carson Irrigation District (TCID) for use in the federal Newlands Reclamation Project. The TCID was found “at fault for excess diversions” which not only injured the Paiute Tribe, but also put two culturally important fish species, protected under the Endangered Species Act, at risk due to the lack of water flowing to their habitat at Pyramid Lake.

Tenth Circuit Rules Citizen Water Sampling is Protected by First Amendment - Sept. 7, 2017

The Tenth Circuit invalidated two Wyoming laws that prevented citizens from crossing private land in order to collect natural resource data on public land, holding that the collection of this data on public lands is protected free-speech under the First Amendment. This ruling is a win for environmentalists in Wyoming, and is significant because it demonstrates that “courts are going to look skeptically at efforts by states to prevent citizens from collecting information that may be important to public policy.”

New Paltz Officials Still Waiting on Decision on Water District – September 3, 2017

The village of New Paltz, New York is waiting to learn whether a court decision will be made on establishing Water District. No. 5 before the need for the district evaporates in favor of another backup source for the village’s water supply system. If the district is not approved, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will be forced to implement an alternative solution where the city would lay 2.3 miles of temporarily lines from the Delaware Aqueduct in Gardiner to the village system. Mayor Tim Rogers said the cost of an overland route for an alternative water source would ultimately come from users.

Ninth Circuit Tries to Unravel Western Water Fight – August 31, 2017
On Wednesday the Ninth Circuit heard three hours of arguments in three cases regarding the allocation of water resources in the Walker River Basin in western Nevada, which provides water for communities in both Nevada and California. In the Walker River Irrigation District the 1936 Walker River Decree regulates water use and rights, but developments since then have put pressure on local water resources. The Ninth Circuit will need to weigh water rights in two states and federal water rights, amid other historical interstate compacts and state and federal rulings dating back more than a century.

Crisafulli: Florida Waters Getting Cleaner Thanks to 2016 Law – August 28, 2017
Thanks to the comprehensive water bill passed by the Florida Legislature in 2016, meetings such as the one held last month in Fort Myers to develop a plan to reduce excess nutrients flowing into the Caloosahatchee watershed are about to become more common around the state. One of the law’s most sweeping reforms designates Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) as the pollutant control programs for each impaired watershed. This plan mandates enforceable water quality improvement requirements for both urban and agricultural activities in the basin to help ensure nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are being reduced.

Sacramento County Sues to Block Delta Tunnels - and it's Not Alone. - Aug. 18, 2017
Sacramento County led a cascade of area governments suing the state of California in an effort to block Delta tunnels, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, as a means of improving southern state water supplies, saying the $17 billion project would harm local farmers, endangered fish, and low-income communities at the south end of the county. California recently announced that the massive project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act and wouldn't harm fish, wildlife, or human health in the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta.

Nevada Attorney General Joins Coalition to Defend Water Rights - Aug. 8, 2017
Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt is taking the lead for a 10-state coalition of attorneys general in filing a court brief defending state government's ability to regulate groundwater usage. The friend-of-the-court brief was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to review a 9th Circuit decision that conflicted with multiple state-court decisions by saying that the federal government has broadly reserved rights to groundwater that preempt long-established state-law regulations.

Butte Co. Board of Supervisors Files Lawsuit Against DWR - Aug. 9, 2017
The Butte County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to file a lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for failing to comply with state water law. The Board of Supervisors said DWR did not adequately assess the environmental and socioeconomic impacts from the California WaterFix conservation plan, which is intended to protect more than 50 species of fish, wildlife, and plants over 50 years.

Trump Admin Takes Sides in 2 Major Water Cases - Aug. 15, 2017
The Trump administration recently weighed in on two complex interstate water disputes in the Supreme Court, in both cases building on the arguments made by the Obama administration. In one, Justice Department attorneys cast uncertainty on Florida's contentions about the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in the state's long-running legal battle with Georgia over waters in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. In the other, DOJ urged the Supreme Court to uphold a decision allowing Texas' lawsuit to continue against New Mexico over water rights to the Rio Grande.

Water Complaints Over Marijuana Spike - August 3, 2017
As entrepreneurs move West seeking to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana, struggles over water rights are cropping up in Oregon. Differences in Eastern and Western water law is the source of much of the conflict. However, beneath the legal battle for water rights lies a deeper cultural tension amongst rural Oregonians over the legalization of marijuana. For farmers specifically, the culture clash is worrisome due to suspicions that some marijuana growers illegally irrigate their crop — either out of ignorance or disrespect for the Western system of “prior appropriations” water law.

How Safe is Kansas City Area Water? You Can Use This New Database to Check It - August 4, 2017
A new database published last week by the national Environmental Working Group allows anyone to enter his or her zip code and view a list of potentially harmful chemicals in the local tap water. The database allows individuals to compare the results of tests conducted by their water utility to health standards set by federal and state governments. The database also contains information about levels of non-regulated chemicals, as well as recommendations to those who wish to make their drinking water cleaner.

Editorial: Legislature, Don't Mess with California's Water Umpire - August 3, 2017
California Assemblyman Adam Gray has introduced a bill to amend the structure of the California State Water Resources Control Board to fix a supposed constitutional defect in the organization’s structure. The regulatory board’s function has become increasingly important in California as water supplies have become increasingly burdened. Private businesses and public utilities that sell water in the state complain that the Board’s current structure violates due process, serving as both prosecutor and judge. Critics of the bill argue that it only belabors the Board’s important enforcement function and delays the often time-sensitive allocation of water resources.

Appeals Court Reverses Federal Judge - Says Flint Water Lawsuits Can Proceed – July 28, 2017
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a Michigan district judge’s dismissal of two lawsuits filed by Flint residents over the contamination of their drinking water. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara had dismissed the cases on grounds that they could not be brought on the basis of constitutional violations, but must be brought under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The appellate court’s ruling is significant because residents are able collect monetary damages under constitutional claims, but not under the SDWA.

Sierra Club: Georgia Power’s Coal Ash Plan Illegal - July 24, 2017
The Sierra Club delivered notice to Georgia Power of a lawsuit it intends to bring against the utility should it continue with its plan to close 29 ponds used to store coal ash, a waste product of burning coal that can contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxins . The Sierra Club alleges that the plan violates the Clean Water Act because the utility’s existing wastewater permits haven’t been modified to allow the utility to “dewater” the ponds by removing all of the contaminated water. The Sierra Club intends to seek an injunction against Georgia Power should the utility fail to amend its plan in compliance with the Act within 60 days. The utility expects to spend roughly $2 billion closing the sites by recycling or treating water from the ponds.

Cuomo Tells DEC to Investigate Inky Discharge Into Niagara Falls - August 1, 2017
Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to investigate any potential water quality violations related to an inky discharge reported at Niagara Falls last weekend. Visitors to the falls complained of the black liquid and accompanying unpleasant smell. Operators of the Niagara Falls Water Board wastewater treatment plant have apologized for the alarm caused by what they maintain was a routine and legal procedure.

WOTUS Arguments Set for October - July 21, 2017
The Supreme Court set oral arguments to hear challenges to the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule for the morning of October 11, 2017. At issue is whether the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals erred when it found that it had jurisdiction to hear litigation over the Rule. Opponents to WOTUS sought to keep the litigation in local district courts, while the Obama administration argued that challenges to the Rule should be heard in appellate courts. The Trump administration has not filed a brief in the case, and is moving forward with efforts to repeal WOTUS.

EPA Sued After Approving Ohio’s Lake Erie Water Quality Plan - July 18, 2017
The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie filed a complaint on July 18th in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, challenging the EPA’s approval of Ohio’s 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report. The environmental groups argue that Ohio “wrongly limited its impairment finding to shorelines and areas near drinking water intakes,” while ignoring the open waters of Lake Erie that have been impaired by algae blooms for years. The groups say that a limited impairment finding is not enough to address the entire algae bloom problem in Lake Erie, and the EPA should require that more be done in order to restore the lake.

GOP’s Gaining Responsibility on Water Act Would Shift Water Policy in Southwest - July 19, 2017
The Gaining Responsibility on Water Act (known as the GROW Act) passed the House and is being considered by the Senate. The controversial bill would speed up efforts to build new dams and shift water from wildlife to farms in the San Joaquin Valley. It would also shift California’s control over its water to the federal government and override the Endangered Species Act, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. While environmentalists and the fishing industry oppose the bill, farmers see it as a necessity for successful agriculture in the drought-ridden states.

EPA Trying to Reverse Obama-Era Water Law; Agency to Rewrite Rules - June 28, 2017
The EPA is moving to recodify its Waters of the United State rule as it existed before the 2015. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the proposed rule on Tuesday, June 27th, and the agency is now in the process of seeking public comments on the proposal to rescind the Obama-era rule. Colorado Representative Scott Tipton claims he welcomes the change because the Obama-era rule would have usurped long-held state water law and threatened access to private water rights. Conversely, Kristen Green of Conservation Colorado says rescinding the rule would put Colorado's water sources at greater risk of pollution and development.

Unresolved Flint Water Crisis Allowing Law Firms to Rake in Millions of Dollars - July 1, 2017
In wake of the Flint Water Crisis, Michigan has spent at least $14 million on hiring lawyers from at least 33 firms, and those costs are expected to continue rising. Though Attorney General Bill Schuette has not said how much more legal assistance is needed for his investigation, the legislature has authorized $2 million for the next fiscal year. Legal bills for governor Rick Snyder have been steep as well. Snyder's spokeswoman has argued that the spending is appropriate because the legal fees are related to actions taken in his official capacity as governor.

Oregon Rancher Challenging Well Shutdown - July 7, 2017
Oregon rancher Tom Mallams is challenging the state government's method of determining when groundwater well pumping must be shut down to avoid disrupting surface water rights. Mallams claims that the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) bases their shut down orders on an erroneous mathematical model. Mallams has petitioned the Marion County Court Judge to overturn OWRD's order because it is "not supported by substantial evidence" as required by Oregon law.

The Next Crisis for California Will Be the Affordability of Water - July 7, 2017
In California and across the nation, concern about water affordability has been spreading. The cost pressures are due to aging water infrastructure, increasing water contamination, increasing standards for cleanliness, and climate change. Because water demand is stable or even dropping, water agencies can only find revenue to cover the bill by raising rates on consumption. Philadelphia initiated the nation's first income-based water rate on July 1. Voters in Atlanta, which is facing an enormous bill for infrastructure construction and maintenance, approved a four-year extension of a 1% sales tax to cover the costs. Big picture solutions propose to stay on top of maintenance and not invest in overly expensive water sources, such as desalination.

Kasich Signs Law in Effort to Expand Fight Against Pollution - July 7, 2017
Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law the state's latest effort to fight pollution and dumping that endanger Lake Erie’s water quality. The bill requires the state to establish rules for the safe reuse of sediment dredged from harbors and river mouths other than dumping it into the open waters of the lake's western basin. A current demonstration project is studying the viability of growing crops from soil that has dredge silt mixed into it.

Tipton Reintroduces Bill to Protect Water Rights, Preserve State Water Law - June 21, 2017
Congressman Scott Tipton, who represents Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, has reintroduced the Water Rights Protection Act, a bill that would uphold federal deference to state water law and prevent federal takings of privately held water rights. In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service proposed the Groundwater Resource Management Directive, which gave the federal government jurisdiction over groundwater in a manner that was inconsistent with long-established state water law. The Forest Service withdrew the measure but has indicated a desire to issue a revised directive in the future.

State Lawmakers Override Veto to Pass Safe Drinking Water Law - June 20, 2017
With strong bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate, the Maine Legislature ​overrode ​the ​governor's​ veto​ of safe drinking water legislation. The new law will become effective ​this fall ​to help boost water testing and protect thousands of rural Maine families from the silent epidemic of arsenic-contaminated well water by establishing a Private Well Safe Drinking Water Fund. The Maine Center for Disease Control will also conduct outreach and education to raise awareness about the problem through the fund.

New Oversight of Groundwater Taking Shape in Sonoma County - June 11, 2017
In the aftermath of a historic five-year drought that prompted wholesale overdrafting of Central Valley aquifers — triggering dramatic collapses in the landscape — California is replacing a largely hands-off approach to groundwater with a regulatory system that includes metering, monitoring, and potentially limiting pumping, along with fees to pay for the regulatory processes. Hundreds of agencies statewide are being formed to implement a landmark California water law to govern groundwater in the state. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed in 2014, gives local agencies in 127 statewide groundwater basins until 2020 or 2022 to come up with plans for achieving sustainability within the ensuing 20 years.

Governor's Team Looks to Shore up Utah's Water Future - June 15, 2017
A four-year effort to devise a blueprint for Utah's water future into 2060 is built around 11 broad recommendations recently released from Utah's State Water Strategy Advisory Team. Utah is in the unenviable position of being the second driest state in the nation, struggling with multiple years of drought that has renewed calls for more emphasis on water conservation and new approaches to water use data collection, as well as the need to increase funding for water infrastructure repairs. The public has the opportunity to comment on the draft report through late June.

Zebra Mussels May Worsen Lake Health Hazards Caused by Farm Pollution - June 24, 2017
An explosion of the zebra mussel population in Lake Mendota this year could mean more foul-smelling shoreline slime and repeats of the major fish kill and vast bloom of toxic bacteria that hit Madison, Wisconsin’s lakes already this summer, experts say. Under state law, farmers are offered financial incentives to limit runoff, and larger farms must submit plans for spreading manure on fields. Opponents of stricter regulations say there are technical difficulties in regulating runoff, but conservationists say those could be overcome if politicians were willing get tougher in dealing with the powerful agriculture industry. Some hope the recent large-scale bacterial bloom will be a wake-up call for Madison residents who witnessed it and its aftermath.

Agriculture Beware: Groundwater Future Belongs to SCOTUS - May 31, 2017
The Supreme Court has bucked expectations and granted certiorari for a case between Mississippi and Tennessee over the rights to an interstate aquifer. Residents of Memphis, TN have enjoyed use of the extremely pure water since 1887. The State of Mississippi brought suit first against the utility company Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW), claiming that interstate groundwater rights differ from groundwater used within a single state boundary and that MLGW and the State of Tennessee were wrongfully using Mississippi’s share of the aquifer. Mississippi lost in both of the lower Courts, however, if the Supreme Court finds in its favor, the ruling could greatly upset long-established water law. The decision will set precedent on how the Court views trans-boundary groundwater flowing beneath multiple state borders.

A Right to Bingo, but Not Clean Water, in New York’s Constitution - May 26, 2017
Activists and lawmakers in New York are pushing for an amendment to the state constitution that would provide “a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” This action is spurred in part by the numerous cases of contaminated water found throughout the country, in conjunction with the perceived hostility of the Trump Administration towards progressive environmental policy. However, the bill to amend has received pushback from business groups in the state, and is uncertain to pass the Republican-controlled state senate.

New Law Aims to Protect Water Supplies in Ohio - May 31, 2017
In wake of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, a new law requiring public water systems to monitor lead and copper levels was signed last year by Ohio Governor John Kasich. The new legislation has received a warm reception from many plant and systems managers who have had no problems implementing the bill. Due to their already clean track record, some plants that have consistently maintained low lead and copper levels may be tested as seldom as once every three years. Ultimately the law is aimed at protecting consumers.

Dakota Access Pipeline, Law Officers Had Close Relationship - May 30, 2017
Recently released documents reveal the close working relationship had by independent security firm TigerSwan, hired by ETP, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, and local law enforcement. The development of the pipeline was a source of protest given concerns about the environmental impact it might have on the Missouri River. The documents reveal that TigerSwan placed a liaison in the law enforcement operations center, and also maintained regular communications with the Morton County Sheriff’s office. In light of the recently released documents, this relationship, as well as the highly militarized tactics used by law enforcement during the protests, have been highly criticized by the Lakota People’s Law Office.

Colorado Legislature Passes New Bill that Clarifies Water Uses - June 1, 2017
The Colorado legislature passed a bill this session that allows water rights holders to divert water from streams for uses other than agricultural or municipal use, thereby expanding the scope of “beneficial uses” of water. The bill was drafted in response to a 2015 Colorado Supreme Court decision which held that “aesthetic, recreational, and piscatorial” uses do not constitute a “beneficial use” of water under Colorado law.

Advocates Celebrate Protection of Nevada Water Law as Legislature Adjourns - June 6, 2017
Extensive opposition from environmentalists, sportsmen, ranchers, farmers, rural residents and governments, tribes, and businesses resulted in the death of a Nevada bill intended to reform current state water law. The bill was intended to clarify certain statutory language and laid out a “3M” approach of “monitoring, management, and mitigation.” However, the bill was criticized as muddling, rather than clarifying, the relevant statutory language. While water law reform is still on the horizon in Nevada, some say the bill’s failure has resulted in a more open dialog between lawmakers and stakeholders.

EPA Delays Compliance for Polluted Water Releases from Power Plants - May 26, 2017
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a 30-day public comment period on a plan to delay compliance dates for an Obama administration regulation on polluted water releases from power plants. The regulation would require power plants to implement the “best available technology economically achievable” for waste streams. The EPA’s decision to delay the regulation was, in part, a response to industry group petitions to reconsider the rule. The delay is a “temporary stopgap measure” while the agency reviews the regulation.

House Passes Bill Reversing Water Permit Requirement for Pesticide Spraying - May 25, 2017
On May 24, the House passed legislation that would allow pesticides to be sprayed near waterways without a Clean Water Act permit. The legislation was part of the Republican-sponsored Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, which aims to reverse “overly broad” requirements for NPDES permits under the CWA. A similar bill has been proposed in the Senate, entitled the Sensible Environmental Protection Act.

Upper Delaware River Water Dispute - May 26, 2017
Officials from New Jersey and New York continue to argue over how much water should be made available to downstream states on the Delaware River from reservoirs that provide water to New York City. Without an agreement, reservoir releases to the river will be cut on June 1st, resulting in low water levels and potentially high water temperatures in the river, which would jeopardize the river’s trout fisheries. New Jersey is refusing to renew the current agreement without changes to ensure that New York City does not over utilize water from the river.

Twitchell Dam Operators Sued Over Water Releases For Steelhead - May 5, 2017
Two environmental groups, San Luis Obispo Coastkeepers and Los Padres ForestWatch, have sued the operator of the Twitchell Dam east of Santa Maria, California in an attempt to alter the timing, duration, and intensity of water released to benefit the endangered steelhead fish. The lawsuit contends that California law requirs dam operators to release sufficient water to keep fish stock in good condition. SLO Coastkeeper Gordon Hensley explains, "[r]eleasing water for fish migration will have virtually no impact on agricultural or domestic supply – our experts estimate 4 percent of reservoir water would be affected." Because of its limited impact, the lawsuit should not conflict with another water rights case which involving hundreds of defendants in a dispute regarding rights to the Santa Maria groundwater basin.

Irrigation Law Changes Risking Prairie Wetlands Get Tucked Into Minn. Environmental Bill - May 6, 2017
Tucked away in the massive environmental bill that the Minnesota legislature will send to Governor Mark Dayton are slight changes to state irrigation law that could imperil a collection of delicate prairie wetlands known as calcareous fens that are currently protected under state law. Because regulators have historically denied permits to farmers to prevent risk to these fens, Republican lawmakers now want to give irrigators priority for often-scarce groundwater. Supporters, primarily farmers and legislators, claim that the permit is tied to the value of the land. Ecologists and regulators, on the other hand, claim this flies in the face of Minnesota’s long history of fair-share water laws.

Mega-Farms Targeted by Lawmakers - May 7, 2017
In South Carolina, some state legislators are circulating proposals that push for tighter controls on mega-farms. Rep. James Smith’s bill would no longer exempt agriculture from rules that apply to industries seeking large withdrawals of surface water. Farms seeking to withdraw 3 million gallons or more per month would require permits to do so. Sen. Chip Carmpsen’s bill would also remove the agricultural exemption from having to obtain permits for large surface water withdrawals but would apply to farms seeking to withdraw 425 million gallons or more per month. Rep. Bill Taylor’s bill would ban crop dusting within 1,000 feet of schools during school hours or during extracurricular activities. Finally, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control is expected to release a report as early as this month that analyzes whether groundwater should be regulated in some counties with large farms.

New Regs – House Bill Dismay Lower South Platte District - May 9, 2017
Colorado’s Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District's executive committee opposes new regulations standardizing well measurement and a law that simplifies how water consumption is calculated in water use changes. According to the committee, the proposed regulations aim to standardize well metering, but do not account for particulars of different wells throughout the state. The law unnecessarily presumes alternative transfer methods, a way for farmers to lease water to municipalities, are completely consumptive leading to the functional equivalent of a "buy and dry."

N.Y.'s New Laws Protecting Drinking Water From Emerging Contaminants - May 10, 2017
This year New York has signaled its intention to move beyond the existing federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements by adopting the Emerging Contaminant Monitoring Act (ECMA) and the Mitigation and Remediation of Certain Solid Waste Site and Drinking Water Contamination. The ECMA is designed to ensure that public water supplies are tested and that the test results are promptly disseminated to customers of public water systems. The Solid Waste Site and Drinking Water Contamination Act is designed to address the inability of the Department of Environmental Conservation to protect drinking water supplies from contamination with regulated hazardous substances or substances on the forthcoming list of emerging contaminants.

Air Force Thumbs its Nose at New Michigan Water Law - April 24, 2017
The U.S. Air Force says it won't provide safe drinking water to Oscoda residents affected by chemical pollution from the former Wurtsmith Air Force base because it is "not authorized" to comply with the requirements of the new Michigan law, which took effect in January. Air Force spokesperson Mark Kinkade said the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which created the Superfund program, only compels the U.S. government to comply with state law if it is not discriminatory. The Air Force maintains Michigan’s new law fails that test.

Thirsty Mega-Farms Siphon S.C.'s Rivers as State Watches - April 25, 2017
During the summer of 2015, a national potato grower pumped more than 1 billion gallons of water from a small river onto the large crop farm it had recently opened in South Carolina. The irrigation effort kept potatoes alive and growing in the hot, dry weather - but it also did what many people feared. The Walther Farms irrigation pipe lowered water levels in the South Fork of the Edisto River, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. An array of interests maintain that South Carolina should tighten its water laws before industrial-scale agriculture siphons too much water from the state’s rivers.

Legislature Passes Bill Exempting Wells on Family-Transfer Land - April 16, 2017
Last year the Montana Supreme Court cracked down on state exemptions for water wells on family-transfer land, saying that these exemptions gave users unfair access to limited amounts of water in many areas. A bill in the Montana legislature, however, is poised to change that. Senate Bill 248 would once again allow exemptions for wells on family land transfers. Both the family land transfers and exempt wells are contentious issues, with critics claiming both are ripe for abuse.

Yucca Mountain Bill Can Overcome Nevada Opposition: Shimkus - April 26, 2017
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) says he is confident the Energy Department will back Congress' efforts to restart work on Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository for the nation's nuclear waste, despite opposition from Nevada leadership. Nevada Senators and Representatives have raised concerns about changes to the water and air permitting processes in draft legislation meant to restart work on Yucca Mountain. The bill proposes to prevent Nevada from refusing water permitting requests from the Department of Energy.

Can California Reverse EPA's U-Turn on Pesticide Ban? - April 19, 2017
A year and a half ago, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would ban the use of the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. Then, at the end of March -- reversing course on decades of agency science and a decision that was years in the making -- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would not ban the pesticide after all. If California state authorities determine the science does not support its use, state-level authorities have the authority to ban a pesticide, and rallies are being held across the state to do just that.

Israeli Firm to Mass-Produce Humidity Extracting Technology This Year – April 16, 2017
Water-Gen Ltd. is poised to begin large scale manufacturing of its novel water-producing technology. The devices extract humidity from the air more efficiently than existing devices, producing a gallon of drinking water using one kilowatt of energy. The technology will be available at a range of scales, from industrial units that can produce nearly a thousand gallons per day, to home or office units that meet smaller needs. Although desalination is still a cheaper solution, the company notes that this technology is practical where poor infrastructure is a barrier to the use of desalination.

EPA Reconsidering Effluent Guidelines and Standards for Steam Electric Power Generation – April 13, 2017
Calling the reconsideration “another example of EPA implementing President Trump’s vision of being good stewards of our natural resources,” Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency’s decision to stay the rule’s compliance deadlines. The final rule would amend effluent guidelines for steam electric power generating facilities subject to the Clean Water Act. According to Pruitt’s statement, the Obama-era requirements embodied in the final rule are neither economically nor technologically feasible within the timeframe the rule originally contemplated. “It is in the public’s best interest to reconsider the rule,” Pruitt concluded.

Indiana Steel Plant Spills Contaminated Water into Lake Michigan – April 11, 2017
The U.S. Steel plant in Portage, Indiana reported contaminated wastewater spilled into a waterway 100 yards from Lake Michigan. The water was contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement criticizing the company for the spill, but noted that the city’s tap water remains safe to drink. Still, communities near the spill shut off their drinking water intakes, and several area beaches are temporarily closed.

Sen. Cruz Files Bill to Ease Restrictions on Importing Water, Invasive Species – April 11, 2017
The Lacey Act restricts the sale of endangered and invasive species across state lines, and as a result prevents states from importing water from sources affected by invasive species like zebra mussels. Under the bill introduced by Senator Cruz, a state would be able to buy water containing invasive species, as long as the same species are also present in the purchasing state. The bill’s proponents argue that it will increase access to water with minimal impact on the spread of invasive species. Opponents point out that some potential receiving states are already spending millions to combat invasive species they may then simply re-import.

New Oroville Spillway Pledged - March 28, 2017
The acting director of the California Department of Water Resources, Bill Croyle, pledged that the Oroville Reservoir would have a new spillway by next fall, after the main spillway collapsed two months ago, causing an evacuation of 200,000 residents downstream of the dam. Croyle said plans for the spillway would be unveiled by early next week; engineers forecast there could be significant risks if the gated spillway is not operational by November 1st. Currently, dam managers are working to stop flows down the main spillway in order to stop further degradation.

Dominion Virginia Power Violated Clean Water Act with Coal Ash Storage Leak - March 23, 2017
Judge John Gibney Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that arsenic had leaked into the Elizabeth River from the coal ash stored at Dominion Virginia Power’s Chesapeake Energy Center, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Gibney has required Dominion to perform testing and asked both parties to the litigation to submit briefs with a “detailed remedial plan.” The Judge rejected the Sierra Club’s request that Dominion be forced to dig up the coal ash and move it to a lined municipal landfill to prevent future leaks. The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented the Sierra Club, said that this is the first time a federal judge has found, after a full trial, that a utility “broke the law through its storage of coal ash.”

Congress Fails to Reauthorize North American Wetlands Conservation Act - March 31, 2017
A bipartisan coalition of six former directors of the Fish and Wildlife Service is urging Congress to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a habitat protection program that has not been renewed since 2012. The coalition of directors emphasized the importance of the NAWCA to the conservation of wetland wildlife and habitats, and cited the “excellent returns on federal government investment through . . . direct job creation and local revenue from outdoor recreation.” The NAWCA, established in 1989, is an incentive-based grant program that has funded more than 2,600 projects throughout the nation and contributed to the conversation of 33.4 million acres of land.

Buffer strips ahead of deadline; Mark Dayton opposes big changes to law - March 16, 2017
Landowners are making good progress toward complying with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s signature water-quality law, leaving the governor firmly opposed to any legislative attempts to delay or revoke the new standards.“To delay or weaken it is not acceptable and not negotiable,” Dayton said Thursday at a news conference celebrating landowners’ growing compliance with a law requiring vegetative buffers be installed between public waters and private lands by November.

Legal rain barrels could catch hundreds of gallons in Nevada - March 14, 2017
Assembly Bill 138 could allow Nevada residents to legally set up rainwater barrels to collect rainwater off their rooftops. Assembly Bill 209 addresses Nevada’s “use it or lose it” water policy and would allow the state engineer to extend the timeframe before forfeiting water rights from basins.

Fla. Spent $240M On Legal Fights, Including Water War With Ga. - March 13, 2017
The decades-long water dispute took a new and expensive turn when Florida Governor Rick Scott asked the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 to limit the water Georgia takes from the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint river basin. Florida argues that Georgia has guzzled more than its share of water at the expense of Florida's oyster industry. This dispute has cost Florida more than $41 million in the last 18 months alone.

Trump’s Order May Foul U.S. Drinking Water Supply - March 10, 2017
On February 28, Trump ordered a review of the Clean Water Rule, with the aim of rolling it back. President Obama finalized the Clean Water Rule in June 2015 to clear up confusion over which water bodies the federal government can regulate under the 1972 Clean Water Act, the main federal law for water pollution. Now, legal experts say, Trump appears to want to restrict what types of waters are regulated, much more so than the Clean Water Rule and the regulations before it. The EPA estimates that one in three Americans, about 117 million people, draw all or some of their water from public drinking water systems that depend at least partly on the streams which the Clean Water Rule would protect.

Landmark ruling lets tribe tap Calif. aquifer - March 8, 2017
A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that a Native American tribe has a legal right to groundwater in Southern California's arid Coachella Valley. The Ninth Circuit held that when the United States established a reservation for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, it implicitly created a right to tap the water below, wrote Judge Charles Tallman for the three-judge panel. The ruling marks the first controlling opinion that the federal "reserved rights" doctrine applies to groundwater. The doctrine says that the United States intended to reserve water for tribes when it established reservations to the extent necessary to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.

Bill to Fix Rural Water Rights Passed by State Senate - March 1, 2017
Washington Senate Bill 5239 passed with 28-21 vote on Feb. 28, 2017. The bill seeks to reverse a recent state Supreme Court decision, known as the Hirst decision, involving water rights and the use of domestic wells. The Hirst decision ruled that counties must ensure water is legally and physically available in certain areas before issuing building permits. Counties reacted to the ruling by temporarily halting rural development. The legislation would ensure so-called permit-exempt wells could to be used for development and would allow hundreds of property owners to continue building homes.

Trump Moves to Kill Obama Water Rule - February 28, 2017
Donald Trump took the first step today toward killing a landmark Obama administration rule aimed at protecting the country's rivers, streams, and wetlands, but which was fiercely opposed by industries from agriculture to homebuilding as a federal power grab. The executive order signed by Trump is the latest in a series of moves by the White House to sweep away regulations from the Obama administration that conservatives have blasted as a drag on the U.S. economy. Trump called the Waters of the U.S. rule "one of the worst examples of federal regulation," that showed the government had "truly run amok."

Nestle Public Review to be Extended Again While DEQ Waits for Water Data - February 27, 2017
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is extending public review for the third time on an application by Nestle Ice Mountain to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps in Osceola County. On Feb. 14 the DEQ sent Nestle Ice Mountain natural resources manager Arlene Anderson-Vincent a letter outlining 21 specific requests for additional scientific data. The DEQ also requested legal documentation to support the claim that Nestle's pumping would be "reasonable under common law principles of water law in Michigan" and "will not violate public or private rights and limitations."

Montgomery County Water Fight Could Move to Ballot Box - February 27, 2017
The constant wrangling over Montgomery County's underground water supplies soon could move from the courthouse to the ballot box. With a legal challenge to the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District's pumpage restrictions pending, there's a new legislative push to alter the makeup of its governing board from nine appointed members to five elected ones. The reasoning: the board's critics might be able to get the changes they want by appealing to voters instead of judges.

Sinking Land Crushes California Groundwater Storage Capacity - February 27, 2017
Unbridled pumping of aquifers in California's San Joaquin Valley is severely reducing the land's capacity to hold water, according to a Stanford University study. The loss of storage is due to subsidence, which is the companion of soils as a result of removing too much water. For years, groundwater users in the San Joaquin Valley, primarily farms with limited surface water supplies, have pumped more wanter than is available. A state law that was signed in 2014 seeks to halt land subsidence and return overdraft groundwater basins to sustainable use.

Missouri Lawmakers Sign Off on Change in Clean water rules – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs
The Missouri House moved to change the state’s Clean Water Law on Thursday, approving legislation easing regulations on irrigation runoff and stormwater discharge in certain farm fields. The Republican-sponsored measure was panned by Democrats, who said it could result in pollution entering the state’s rivers and streams. Under the proposed changes, agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture, such as corn fields or cattle pastures, would be exempted from permitting requirements under the clean water law.

Judge Chastises Ohio, U.S. EPAs in Lawsuit Over Lake Erie's Algal Bloom-Covered Western Basin –, April 12, 2018
Compiled by: Stephanie Biggs
A federal judge expressed displeasure with state and federal agencies in a lawsuit over previous decisions to not designate Lake Erie’s open waters as “impaired,” despite the presence of harmful algal blooms and its impact on the Toledo area’s drinking water. Senior U.S. District Judge James Carr’s scathing 25-page ruling says the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 decision to not place the lake’s open waters on its list of impaired waterways ran afoul of the Clean Water Act. Still, he ruled against the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s request to rescind the U.S. EPA’s approval of the 2016 Ohio list because the U.S. EPA rescinded its approval in January of this year. Instead, he permitted the federal EPA 30 days to make a final decision on Ohio’s 2016 list, which he noted was still incomplete.

Domestic Wells Could be Regulated During Bad Drought - February 23, 2017
Current Nevada water law could force wells to be shut down, according to a report from a Legislative subcommittee examining how Nevada manages its water. Nevada law prohibits mining water from a basin, which means that users cannot take more water than is replaced by natural sources. The state is divided into 256 hydrographic basins, and more than a fifth of those are considered severely over appropriated by the state engineer.

Court Deems Water Right for Cannabis Grow to be Lawful - February 21, 2017
The water referee in Division 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs, in a case involving a major marijuana grow operation in the mid valley, has found that Colorado courts can lawfully issue a new water right specifically to grow the plant, even though it is still illegal to grow marijuana under federal law. The referee's order is the most detailed articulation to date of the state's position on the question of whether a new water right specifically to irrigate marijuana can be issued, although it applies only to Division 5. The referee also found there was no conflict between state and federal laws in creating the water right, which was a key concern in the case.

Lithium Mining Company Wants Changes in Bill - February 21, 2017
The owner of the only mining operation in the United States producing lithium carbonate wants alterations to Nevada's proposed bill on lithium exploration. The bill currently would create an exemption to state water law to allow exploration entities to sample brine from boreholes and sample and pump-test from an exploration well. Albermarle Corp., owner of the Silver Peak Mine in Esmeralda County, reported it was working with the Nevada Division of Minerals and state engineer to develop alternative language to AB52 that protects the alkaline playa, encourages lithium exploration, and "protects Albemarle's current site and operations."

Trump Rolls Back Stream Protection Rule - February 17, 2017
Last week President Trump signed a Congressional Review Act resolution eliminating the Stream Protection Rule, an Obama administration regulation aimed at reducing coal mining’s impact on water resources. The rule would have increased pre-mining data collection requirements and required monitoring and ongoing evaluation of certain perennial and intermittent streams, among other requirements. President Trump called the rule “another terrible job killing rule.”

China Considers New Restrictions on Access to Territorial Waters - February 17, 2017
China’s state news agency is reporting a proposed change to its restrictions on foreign vessels entering Chinese territorial seas. The draft law would impose fines of 300,000–500,000 yuan on foreign ships that enter without approval, and would empower Chinese maritime authorities to block ships that they felt could harm traffic safety and order. Although this prior notification is in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea’s innocent passage provisions, neighboring Vietnam has already adopted a similar requirement.

Special Master Recommends Denying Florida’s Request to Cap Georgia’s Water Use - February 14, 2017
Special Master Ralph Lancaster sided with Georgia in its dispute with Florida over the state’s use of water in their shared Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Florida argued that it is entitled to adequate streamflow to protect downstream ecosystems and the livelihood of oystermen, while Georgia maintained that needs that water to meet the residential demands of Atlanta and southeast Georgia irrigation. In his report and recommendation to the Supreme Court, the Special Master recommended finding that “Florida has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that a decree imposing a cap on Georgia’s consumptive water use . . . would provide a material benefit to Florida.”

6th Circuit Puts Hold on Challenge to Obama’s Clean Water Rule - February 5, 2017
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has put a hold on a challenge to the Obama’s administration’s Clean Water Rule after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on January 13. The National Association of Manufacturers, with the support of 31 states, petitioned the 6th Circuit, arguing that the litigation belongs in local district court; it hopes the Supreme Court will find that the court of appeals is “not the proper forum for litigation these challenges.” The Obama Administration submitted a defense of the Clean Water Rule in a 300-page brief to the 6th Circuit. It is unclear how the Supreme Court will rule.

Republicans Threaten Stream Protection Rule - February 5, 2017
Senate Republicans introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution on January 30th to “disapprove of the new coal mining water quality and monitoring standards” imposed by the Stream Protection Rule. Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the sponsored of the resolution, called the Stream Protection Rule “overreaching and misguided” and emphasized that the rule would devastate the coal industry. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement under President Obama proposed the rule in order to “modernize 30-year-old relations.” Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, called the resolution proposed by Republicans “anti-clean water” and warned that the language in the resolution “could prevent the Department of the Interior from ever issuing updated regulations that reduce the harmful impacts of coal mining.” The House is set to vote on the resolution soon.

1,700 Residents File Suit Against EPA - February 5, 2017
Over 1,700 residents of Flint, Michigan have sued the EPA for mismanagement of the 2015 lead water crisis. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Michigan this week and the plaintiffs are seeking class action status. The suit alleges that the EPA “failed to warn them of the toxic lead levels in their water or take steps to make sure state and local authorities were fixing the problem” and seeks $722 million in damages.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeks public comment on Proposed Rule for Use of USACE Reservoir Projects for Domestic, Municipal and Industrial Water Supply – December 16, 2016

Schuette Backs Getting Bottled Water Delivered in Flint – January 22, 2017
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is siding with Flint residents in a lawsuit against the state and city, asking a federal court to uphold a contested order requiring officials to provide bottled water delivery to any home without a verified filter. Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has fought the lawsuit and bottled water delivery order, arguing it is “overbroad” and the city lacks the financial resources to comply with it.

Clean Water Act Guru, WOTUS defender retiring – January 22, 2017
As President Trump rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue today toward the White House, the government's foremost expert and defender of the Clean Water Act is heading for the exit. Justice Department attorney Steve Samuels — who reached near-celebrity status among environmentalists for his license plate reading "CWA 404," referring to the law's wetlands provision — will retire on Jan. 31 after more than 30 years at DOJ.

Audit: Michigan Ag Department Not Following Bottled Water Regulations – January 22, 2017
The Office of the Auditor General found in its audit of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) that the department needs to do more to follow its own regulations on bottled water inspection. The report found that MDARD did not always peerform timely inspections of water bottles and places with water dispensing machines.

Legislature to work on water bills this session – January 22, 2017
Assemblywoman Robin Titus of the Nevada Legislature has said this year's Legislature will be sorting through a plethora of water bills. “This (water) is one of the big issues of this session,” Titus said, adding subcommittees and possibly the full Assembly and Senate will be looking at the control of domestic wells, which the state engineer wants.

'Takings' case moves to Washington, D.C. venue – January 22, 2017
A historic case on the ramifications of a major water shutoff to Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators in 2001 will be heard at trial from local farmers or their attorneys starting Monday, Jan. 30 in Washington, D.C. In April 2001, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services and National Marine Fisheries Service issued biological opinions declaring that water diverted from Upper Klamath Lake by Klamath Project irrigators would endanger suckers and coho salmon, citing the Endangered Species Act. The water shutoff decision prompted a protest that drew widespread attention to the Klamath Basin.

Michigan Governor Signs First Water Legislation Prompted by Flint Crisis - January 8, 2017
On Jan. 6 Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that requires cities in Michigan to warn their residents about dangerous lead levels within three days of a state contamination notice. Gov. Snyder noted that this bill is “an important first step,” and added that it “is not the last piece of legislation we should see on this.” Although recent testing suggest that lead levels in Flint’s water supply have decreased, residents continue to rely on filtered and bottled water.

EPA Releases Final Report on Hydraulic Fracturing - January 8, 2017
In December EPA released its final report on Hydraulic Fracturing. The report is the product of half a decade of work, and presents the EPA’s findings on impacts that fracking may have on water resources. In the report, the agency concludes that fracking may impact water resources in certain circumstances. Industry groups have criticized the report, pointing out how differences between this and draft released in 2015 represent a last-minute change before the Obama administration leaves office. Environmental advocates have praised the report’s acknowledgement of fracking risks.

SCOTUS Special Master Orders Florida, Georgia to Try to Settle Water Dispute - January 8, 2017
Special Master Ralph Lancaster ordered the states to work on reaching a settlement of their disputes over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins. The states have until Jan. 26 to submit a memorandum describing their settlement efforts, which should include considering “solutions that could alleviate both parties’ concerns, including importation of water from outside the ACF River Basin to supplement streamflow during drought periods.”

New York Environmental Groups Calling for Constitutional Right to Clean Water - January 8, 2017
Environmental Advocates of New York and EffectiveNY are supporting a proposed state constitutional amendment that would guarantee New Yorkers’ rights to clean air and water. Proponents note that although residents already have options for challenging laws and regulations, a constitutional amendment would strengthen those arguments and resist backsliding on environmental protection far into the future. Six state constitutions already include environmental rights provisions, including neighboring Pennsylvania.

Tennessee State Attorney General Demands Water Pollution Data from Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee has notified TVA that withholding water quality data relating to its coal-burning Gallatin Fossil Plant violates state law. The request comes as the state and environmental groups are suing TVA for failing to control groundwater pollution related to coal ash produced at the facility. Groundwater from the plant reaches the Cumberland River upstream of Nashville’s municipal water intakes.

Gardiner Sewer District Sues Yellowstone National Park Over Arsenic - December 24, 2016
The Gardiner-Park County Water and Sewer District filed a lawsuit against Yellowstone National Park and the Park Service on December 21, seeking an order that the Park Service address the high levels of arsenic which have infiltrated the county’s sewage treatment plant. The complaint alleged that the National Park Service formerly acknowledged the problem and said they would help pay for a sludge removal project, but have provided little information on when funding would be available. The complaint also stated that the arsenic levels in the district’s and the park’s drinking water are below standards and the arsenic entering the treatment plant originated in the park.

EPA Not Required to Regulate Nutrients - December 24, 2016
On December 15, Judge Zainey of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana rejected a suit filed by environmentalists to force the EPA to regulate nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River. Judge Zainey found that the Clean Water Act supports the EPA’s decision to rely on the states to combat nutrient pollution in the river, rather than putting limits on the flow of nutrients. He stated in his opinion that the “Clean Water Act is by design a states-in-the-first-instance regulatory scheme,” but conceded that the EPA’s strategy of relying on states will not be sustainable indefinitely.

Obama Signs Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act - December 24, 2016
President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act on December 16, a water projects bill which will help improve water infrastructure around the country. The Act includes aid to Flint, Michigan to replace lead pipes in the public water system, as well as funding for harbor dredging projects, dams, and environmental restoration in the Everglades and Great Lakes, among other areas. There is also a California drought provision, which allows for increased use of water from the San Francisco Bay watershed.

Proposed Water Law Package has Lode Residents Picking Sides – December 11, 2016
A proposed water law package for California that includes chances to expand water storage at New Melones Reservoir and target non-native fish in the Stanislaus River watershed is working its way through Congress this week. Known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, and as the Water Resources Development Act, they are two separate pieces of legislation combined into one measure. Like any legislation targeting water in the Golden State, it is controversial, and some people are picking sides.

For Montana's Water Rights, a Radical and Likely Doomed Idea - December 11, 2016
Joe Gutkoski runs a small nonprofit called Montana River Action, whose main goal is to unwind Montana water law, a political non-starter for many in the Montana Legislature. For the eighth time, he is looking for someone to bring a bill to the Montana Legislature that would require 25 percent of average annual streamflow remain in roughly 4,700 miles of streams the state has deemed “dewatering concern areas.” The rest of the water could be diverted. In a state where agriculture is still king, climate change is expected to bring more frequent drought conditions. Current water rights exceed available water in many river basins, creating the opportunity for water users to significantly or totally drain streams. Gutkoski thinks it's wrong to assume all irrigators care about larger river concerns, and he wants a legal mandate to protect the state's fisheries.

West Slope Water Users Win in Court - December 11, 2016
Western Slope prevailed in the Colorado Supreme Court in a major water case involving transmountain diversions to Colorado's Front Range. In a 5-2 decision, the high court ruled that a water court in Pueblo erred in concluding that storage of transmountain water rights on the Eastern Slope was lawful despite the lack of a water court decree allowing for the water’s storage prior to its use for its decreed purpose. The court also held that because the storage of the water rights was unlawful, the water court erred when quantifying historic use by including the volumes of exported water paid as rental fees for storage on the Eastern Slope. From the Western Slope perspective, a key aspect of the ruling is that it concluded that the right to store transmountain diversion water prior to use in the basin where it’s imported isn’t automatic, but must be reflected or implied in the water rights decree. To some degree, transmountain diversion water is treated differently from other water in Colorado, as importers of the water can reuse it over and over.

California Case Could Set National Precedent on Indian Water Rights - December 11, 2016
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which owns to casinos in the popular Palm Springs desert region, has been buying water for decades from two government water agencies that manage local groundwater. Now the tribe wants to be able to tap into the aquifer itself and help manage it. At a hearing in October before the 9th Circuit, the tribe asserted it has a "federally reserved" right to directly access the region's groundwater, even though it has never done so. The tribe claims the two water agencies have damaged the aquifer by depleting it for unsustainable development and by bringing in saliter water from the Colorado River to refill it. The water agencies, in turn, warn that if given a role in managing the groundwater, the tribe could use the water for any purpose it wants. The case before the federal appeals court could set a national precedent for tribal access to groundwater. No federal curt before has ever ruled on the issue.

Maroon Creek Club Water Rights Application Opposed by City of Aspen and CWCB - December 11, 2016
The Colorado Water Conservation Board and the city of Aspen are objecting to an effort by the Maroon Creek Club to broaden a 1989 water right so it can refill four ponds on its private golf course as it sees fit. Both the state and the city are concerned that in seeking such a determination, the club will actually expand its water right, and do so despite an earlier settlement agreement that sets a cap on the amount of water that the ponds can store in a year. A status conference in the case is set for December 22.

Inspections Show Navajo Utility had Years of Violations - December 11, 2016
A new agreement between federal and tribal regulators and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority shows six sewage treatment plants across the Navajo Nation in Arizona have been violating Clean Water Act regulations for years. Under separate agreements with the U.S. EPA and Navajo Nation EPA, the tribally owned utility agreed to spend $6 million to get its treatment plants back into compliance. The offenses were the latest among a number of violations that NTUA Deputy General Manager Rex Kontz attributed in part to a reliance on immediate, Band aid-type fixes that failed to address the bigger problem. The root cause of the most recent violations is infrastructure age, Kontz said.

After Flint Failure, EPA Refocuses Federal Drinking Water Role - December 11, 2016
The lead contamination scandal that unraveled in Flint, MI the last two years brought drinking water safety to the forefront of U.S. public policy. The results of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of the nation's drinking water strategy that began in May was published on November 30th. The result is a thirty-three page "action plan" divided into six priority areas and dozens of recommended actions.

Sixth Circuit Affirms Flint Water Suit’s Remand to State Court – November 27, 2016
A 2–1 panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld a district court’s decision to remand a class action brought by residents of Flint, Michigan to state court. Because two-thirds of the proposed class members are Michigan citizens, the injuries are contained to those within the reach of Flint’s water system, and there is a local defendant, the panel decided that it fit the local controversy exception in the Class Action Fairness Act. The case “exemplifies the quintessential local controversy,” the panel wrote, adding that to argue otherwise “defies common sense.”

Slovenia Adds Water as Constitutional Right – November 27, 2016
Slovenia amended its constitution to make water a fundamental right. With the new amendment the constitution now unambiguously establishes that “[e]veryone has the right to drinkable water.” The decision makes it the first E.U. nation to make water a universal right, and is aimed in part at increasing access to potable water for the 12,000 Roma people living in the country.

Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma Sues Federal Agencies Over Oil and Gas Approvals – November 27, 2016
The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma filed suit to protect lands and water from what they argue is illegal gas drilling. They allege that BLM and BIA issued the oil and gas approvals without consulting with the Nation or complying with tribal natural resource protection laws, including a 2015 Pawnee moratorium on new oil and gas approvals.

Pennsylvania Senators Intervene in Fracking Suit – November 27, 2016
Three state senators are attempting to intervene in a lawsuit aimed at ending a fracking moratorium on the grounds that it takes the place of existing regulations. They argue that the Delaware River Basin Commission has usurped the role of the commonwealth’s General Assembly by effectively replacing the previously-enacted set of regulations on gas-drilling. The case is before Judge Robert Mariani, who has yet to rule on their motion. Read more at:

Michigan Lists Lake Erie Watershed As Impaired – November 27, 2016
On Nov. 10 Michigan listed its portion of the Lake Erie watershed as impaired, citing eutrophication and algae blooms as the primary causes of the impairment. Proponents of the designation hope that it will encourage neighboring states to follow suit, but Ohio Governor John Kasich has been hesitant to do so. Ohio listed its Lake Erie shoreline and draining water intakes as impaired in 2015, but critics argue that a state-wide designation is necessary.

Plea to Include Watershed Projects in the WRDA - November 7, 2016
On November 3, 58 members of the Senate and House asked the conference committee in charge of the Water Resources Development Act to include watershed restoration projects in the legislation. Specifically, they asked that the WRDA include five bills authorizing restoration projects for Lake Tahoe, the Great Lakes, the Delaware River Basin, Long Island Sound, and the Columbia River Basin. Negotiators are currently in the process of reconciling the House and Senate versions of the WRDA.

Army Corps Issues Regulatory Guidance on Jurisdictional Determinations - November 7, 2016
The Army Corps issued a regulatory guidance letter (“RGL”) on November 1 to help regulators decide “whether wetlands and streams on property being developed fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government,” and thus are subject to the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act. The letter is aimed at providing clarity to district regulators on when they must complete a preliminary jurisdictional determination, approved determination, or no jurisdictional determination. Although some experts believe the RGL merely “repackages many of the procedures already in place at the corp,” others argue it gives district engineers more discretion to “slow-walk” jurisdictional determinations.

Pivotal Battle Looms in Long-Running Southeast Water War - November 1, 2016
A bankruptcy court in Portland, Maine is hosting Florida v. Georgia, the hot-button Supreme Court case addressing water flow and withdrawals in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. Attorneys for Florida and Georgia plan to draw on testimony from more than three dozen experts on whether the states' use of water in the basin is equitable. The Supreme Court appointed Pierce Atwood LLP attorney Ralph Lancaster as special master in the case. He'll make recommendations to the high court based on the trial and evidence; the justices will decide whether to accept the outcome. Even if the case doesn't resolve everything between Florida and Georgia, the case could be significant for the rest of the country if the Supreme Court ends up divvying the water between the two states through what's known as "equitable apportionment." In the process of apportionment, how the Supreme Court handles the country's major environmental statutes that have been passed into law since the 1930s could have huge implications for states across the country. In general, more and more interstate water disputes are heading to the Supreme Court. The other ongoing water fights at the high court are between Texas and Mexico, Montana and Wyoming, and Mississippi and Tennessee.

SC Oil Spill Prompts Legal Threat - November 1, 2016
Savannah Riverkeeper and Upstate Forever, two environmental groups working in South Carolina, have filed a notice that they will sue under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) after 60 days if Kinder Morgan Energy Partners Inc. and a subsidiary don't halt ongoing petroleum pollution in waterways near a spill site. The legal notice, provided to the energy company and government regulators, is part of a federal process that must be followed before a lawsuit can be filed. Such notices are filed by citizen groups who claim the government is not enforcing the CWA. The notice comes at a time of criticism by environmental groups and property rights advocates over Kinder Morgan expansion plans in the Savannah River basin in western South Carolina.

California River Watch Sues Composting Facilities for Clean Water Act Violations - November 1, 2016
California River Watch filed a complaint on Oct. 26, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Zanker Road Resource Management Ltd., and Z-Best Composting Facility, citing alleged violation of the Clean Water Act. According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that California River Watch is informed and believes that large quantities of composted materials at the defendants' composting facilities are exposed to stormwater and eroded by wind that can otherwise contaminate the surrounding watershed and threaten to cause pollution, contamination, or nuisance.

Washington County Temporarily Halts Work on New Developments that Depend on Rural Wells - November 1, 2016
Whatcom County has temporarily stopped accepting new applications for developments that depend on water from what are known as "exempt wells" in light of a recent state Supreme Court ruling against the County. The court said the County must make sure there was enough available water before issuing permits for developments in rural areas. The decision overturned a February 2015 state Court of Appeals ruling, which had favored the county by saying, in effect, that the county didn't need stricter rules to regulate water wells on rural properties.

Responding to Citizen Petition, EPA Reviews Wisconsin NPDES Delegation
In response to a petition filed last year, EPA officials are reviewing documents related to forty-seven NPDES permits issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. According to the petition, the Wisconsin DNR issued permits that contravene CWA duties, restrict the rights of state citizens, and violate public participation requirements. EPA has never withdrawn state delegation as a result of a citizen petition, and a state spokesperson commented that the EPA review is standard procedure, the Lacrosse Tribune reported.

New Legislation Recognizes Meadows and Forests as “Integral Components of California’s Water Infrastructure”
On September 27th Governor Brown signed AB-2480 into law, recognizing the role that source watersheds play in maintaining the state’s water supply. The short bill recognizes that as “climate change advances, source watersheds . . . are of particular importance to maintaining the reliability, quantity, timing, and quality of California’s environmental, drinking, and agricultural water supply.” The new law allows use of infrastructure bonds for watershed restoration and protection, and lists financing-eligible repair and maintenance activities that include vegetation management, meadow restoration, road removal, and more.

Issues of First Impression in Mississippi v. Tennessee
When the Supreme Court hears arguments in Mississippi v. Tennessee, the justices will have to decide for the first time what law applies to interstate groundwater resources like the disputed Sparta-Memphis Sand Aquifer. Mississippi alleges that the city of Memphis is extracting so much from the aquifer that a groundwater depression has formed beneath the city. That depression, the state argues, is drawing in so much water from Mississippi that the state is owed $615 million in compensation. The Solicitor General has argued in support of Tennessee’s contention that the aquifer should be treated like an interstate river, and be subject to equitable apportionment.

Supreme Court Upholds Right to Challenge Army Corps CWA Jurisdiction Determinations of WOTUS in Hawkes - May 31, 2016
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes that an Army Corps “jurisdictional determination” is a “final agency action” subject to judicial review because of the significant financial and even criminal consequences for landowners if they disregard such a determination. The ruling upheld the Eighth Circuit's ruling in the matter and will surely play a part in the ongoing judicial interpretations of EPA's Clean Water Rule on defining Waters of the U.S.

North Carolina Supreme Court Considers Asheville Water System Case - May 24, 2016
Last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court heard oral argument on a challenge to a North Carolina law that transfers control of the Asheville water system from city officials to a board comprised of officials from a two-county area, of which Asheville representatives would be a minority. More than 120,000 people utilize the Asheville water system, both inside and outside the city limits. Although most of the Court’s questions concerned whether the law in question violates a state constitutional provision prohibiting local laws relating to health and sanitation, the Court also questioned whether the state assembly has the authority to transfer an asset worth millions of dollars from one governmental entity to another without compensation. A decision is not expected for several months.

Committee Description, Awards, & Events

The Water Resources Committee focuses on substantive and practice developments that impact water allocation and availability for all water users. These developments fall into a broad spectrum of subject areas, including state water law; federal and tribal water law; issues arising under the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act; interstate allocation of water; the Public Trust and Prior Appropriation Doctrines; reserved water rights; state, local and municipal water supply; water rights transfers; and federal reclamation law. In light of increasing issues of water scarcity, the committee's interests encompass the interdependence of water uses by all economic sectors - agriculture, mining, fisheries, tourism, energy, and water and wastewater utilities among them - and the inescapable connection between water quantity and water quality.


The Water Resources Committee was awarded a certificate of recognition for "Best Newsletter" of the 2015-2016 bar year!

According to the ABA, the “Best Newsletter” is distinguished by quality and consistency over a sustained period of time. The winning newsletter may also have demonstrated successful innovations in newsletter development, such as collaboration with other committees, involvement of young lawyers or law students, publication of high-profile authors, and production of special topic issues.

Congratulations and thank you to our Newsletter Editor, Jeff Kray, to past-chair, David Johnson, and current co-chairs Sorell Negro and Andrea Clark!

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Robisch, Kyle

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