Evolution of groundwater law in Arizona and Jordan – legal dimension of the groundwater revolution and implications for the groundwater crisis of the 21st century
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The year 1904 marks the beginning of modern groundwater law in Arizona. Howard v. Perrin was the first decision of the Supreme Court of what was the Territory of Arizona at the time in a conflict over the use of groundwater: Perrin used two wells on a piece of land that Howard claimed for himself.About 100 years later – in 1999 – the Jordan Paper and Cardboard Factories sued the Water Authority of Jordan at the Court of Cassation, the highest appellate court of the country. The Water Authority charged fees for the withdrawal from the wells the company used on its premises, but the company refused to pay.The two examples mark instances in the development of groundwater law in Arizona and Jordan. Within the 100 years between the decisions of two high courts the judges in both countries took a number of further decisions. They revoked earlier rulings and modified the legal concepts. In the second half of the 20th century laws and regulations were promulgated and replaced the court decisions as the main source of groundwater law.This paper takes the legal development in Arizona and Jordan as case studies for the evolution of groundwater law in arid regions. The paper aims at identifying the contribution of legal concepts to what has been termed the “groundwater revolution” of the 20th and their capability as a policing instrument in the groundwater crisis of the 21st century.The paper takes its starting point in a common denominator of groundwater use in Arizona and Jordan: Judges, lawmakers and water administrators in both countries have been confronted with aridity and scarcity of water resources from early on. This played out in specific conflicts between groundwater users. When groundwater use was still mainly an agricultural phenomenon farmers fought over neighboring wells. The conflicts escalated to a higher level when urban water companies started to reach out into rural areas to supply their customers from resources that had thitherto been tapped by agricultural users. The paper discusses how legal concepts have evolved under the conditions of aridity and scarcity. The major challenges to sustainable groundwater use – dwindling supplies and the redistribution of groundwater use from agriculture to urban and other uses – are closely reflected in the legal systems in both Arizona and Jordan.There are significant differences in how the legal systems have actually been effective with regard to distribution of groundwater. This is where the second level of comparison comes in: The political and social framework in Arizona and Jordan could not be more different. Arizona has managed to reverse the previously disastrous overexploitation of its resources through the complex and long-term regulative framework of the Groundwater Management Act of 1980. The political economy of groundwater use in Jordan is equally challenging. Confidence in the legal system as a factor of change is far less developed however. The paper takes Jordan as an example of legal regulation of groundwater use under autocratic rule and rentier state conditions – political conditions which are reality in many of the most drought-struck regions around the globe.