Early Court Decisions and Future Implications
Chairman of the Executive Council, International Association for Water Law (AIDA)
The sustainable management and use of groundwater resources for irrigation, as a source of drinking water supplies and as a supplementary source of surface river flows and wetlands and wildlife habitats call for increasing attention to two major and interdependent sources of concern ? namely, depletion and pollution. The former is linked to the unsustainable extraction and use of groundwater, the latter to the contamination of available groundwater supplies from point and non-point (or diffuse) sources. Both phenomena stand to be exacerbated by growing climate variability conditions. To the extent that either or both phenomena threaten the long-term viability of available supplies and the sustainability of their development and use, the legal systems have been prompted to respond with a view to defusing the social tension and the potential for conflict generated by such threats. National regulation of groundwater extraction and use and of polluting activities has largely - but not entirely - supplanted private legal remedies available to injured plaintiffs across the groundwater-agriculture nexus, in particular, where perceptions of groundwater as an intensely private resource have been and continue to be strong. Other non-regulatory approaches have also been framed in contemporary water resources legislation, reverberating on that same nexus in particular. Through a comparative review and analysis of the contemporary water legislation of selected countries the choice of mechanisms and options - regulatory and otherwise - available to the lawmakers will be illustrated. Emerging trends and best practice approaches will also be teased out, and relevant issues discussed. Pointers for the possible future direction of water legislation, particularly as it impacts on the groundwater-agriculture nexus, will be finally volunteered.