It may be a commplace thing for law schools in the parched west, but this is something new for a law school in wet Wisconsin: Marquette University Law School plans to start a curriculum in water law, effective this fall and for the upcoming academic year.
Subjects are expected to include water ownership, acquisition, supply management, adjudication, administration and related subjects.
The Business Journal of Mikwaukee on May 20 quoted two local people active in the development:
“Establishing a specific water law program for students is another piece to the larger puzzle of positioning the Milwaukee region as the worldwide destination for water policy and research,” said Joseph Kearney, dean of the Marquette University Law School.
Richard Meeusen, chairman, president and CEO of Badger Meter Inc. and co-chairman of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council, said the curriculum is a “vital addition to an already solid program that positions the Milwaukee region as the world water hub.”
The provisions of the Great Lakes Water Compact, recently ratified by both officials and voters, are beginning to kick into gear: The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, said on November 12 that it will try to obtain to obtain water from Lake Michigan and then recycle, treated from wastewater conditions. The effort probably would be allowable under terms of the compact.
The return trip probably would be undertaken by way of Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa.
A significant part of the city’s current water source turns out to have been contaminated by radium.
The compact is effective on December 8.
The Michigan state legislature on May 15, in approving the Great Lakes Regional Compact, moved to try to block diversion of water from the Great Lakes to outside the region.
Eight states are planned to be participants in the agreement.
Lawmakers remained at odds, however, on water diversions within the state – other than directly from the Great Lakes. Those could include waters from some in-stream streams, ponds and lakes as well as groundwater. Such legislation is prerequisite to the state’s participation in the larger compact.
Legislation would require water users to obtain permits after withdrawing more than a certain amount of water. A Senate proposal would set that limit at two million gallons per day, and a House proposal would set it at about half as much. The issue has pitted environmental and business groups against each other.
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin still have not reached final action on the agreement. Four other states, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, have done so.
See Detroit (MI) Free Press, May 15; article by T
New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson stirred up a hornet’s nest last month when he called for a national summit on water to address needs in the parched West including looking at a way for water-rich northern-tier states to help with shortages in the Southwest. He also said he would elevate the Bureau of Reclamation to a Cabinet-level post. The comments were made during an interview with the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.
Richardson said he wanted to see more communication between the western and eastern states, that he’d like to see a national water policy, and the comment that triggered quick, sharp rebuttals from some Great Lakes states: “States like Wisconsin are awash in water.” His comment was blasted by environmental groups as well as Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm who, when asked about the plan said, “Hell No. That’s my response.”
Richardson’s comments prompted a firestorm of official, environmental and editorial comments.
While Richardson, and other Westerners may see the East, especially the Great Lakes as having an abundance of water (and certainly by comparison to the arid West, they appear to), people in those states are currently struggling with concerns over diminishing levels in several of the Great Lakes.
The message from Richardson sounded alarm bells in the Midwest, where Lake Superior has hit a record low for this time of year, and Lakes Michigan and Huron are flirting with their own record lows. Meanwhile, a compact among the eight Great Lakes states to block large-scale diversions remains stalled in some state legislatures, including Wisconsin’s. A big reason for the snag is that some are worried its provisions are too restrictive and could throttle development within the Great Lakes. Compact advocates are hopeful Richardson’s pitch will spur lawmakers into action. Environmental groups in the Great Lakes responded sharply: “It’s ridiculous to say that,” said Hugh McDiarmid, spokesman for the Michigan Environmental Council. “Until the compact is passed, our water protections are hanging on by a thread.”
This isn’t the first time presidential candidates have flirted with the idea of using the Great Lakes for other water needs. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told the Free Press that Great Lakes water diversion issues required a “delicate balancing act” to provide for “national needs.” A day later, his spokesman took it all back, saying Kerry did not think water should be diverted from the Great Lakes.
After several days of stinging criticism in Michigan and Wisconsin, Richardson followed Kerry’s example and backed away from the idea: “Richardson in no way proposes federal transfers of water from one region of the nation to the other,” said a statement by his press secretary Tom Reynolds. “Richardson believes firmly in keeping water in its basin of origin and of the rights of states to oversee water distribution.”