Sustainable Development Law via Regional Plans for Groundwater in Australia, USA, and EU ?
Sustainable development law is the incorporation of the Rio principle into the laws of the relevant jurisdiction. The Rio principle of sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This principle has been inserted in Australia in the water allocation laws of each state and is a requirement of the water plans to set out regionally relevant strategies to achieve this. Over the last 18 years there have been many plans created and these legal documents have been interpreted by many state judges to uphold severe water allocation reductions. The strategies in the plans to reduce water have been subject to judicial review and the elements and decisions will be reviewed. There are some particularly innovative plans in some regions to regulate the interception of water by forestry. The sustainable development requirement is now also in the new Federal Water Act and is also a component of the new overarching Basin Plan for the transboundary Murray Darling Basin (covers four states). The Basin Plan also has requirements for a new sustainable Cap to be set, incorporating the inter-linkages between surface and groundwater systems. The Water Act also requires the national interest and relevant international agreements to be a factor in making decisions to promote sustainability. Hence Australia has a vertical system of cascading plans, all of which aim to achieve sustainability but which have various regional foci. All of the above will be discussed and the problems of integration of these requirements. The future implications of these processes are considerable. The implications are for legal processes and administration which will have substantial social and economic impacts. The implications are not limited to Australia but help to develop international law (draft convention on transboundary aquifers) and the laws of the U. S. and the EU.