As a nation, the United States is in the early stages of a developing water crisis. With an exploding population accompanied by great technological advances in industry and agriculture, America is using progressively more water each day; the increasing use threatens to exceed available supplies in the future unless available resources are properly managed.
As the demand for water grows, problems related to the equitable allocation of this important resource will likewise increase. The need that presently exists for an integrated and balanced approach to the problems of water consumption, pollution, navigation and recreation will become even more acute in the coming decades. Only legislation that takes these considerations into account will preclude the impending crisis. Such laws must be sufficiently flexible to permit the state to benefit from technological advances, rather than freeze the use of the resource into a pattern that may at some later date prove impractical. They must be based on interdisciplinary work with lawyer, hydrologist, ecologist and economist joining together to develop the soundest possible approach.
A Model Water Code has been drafted at the University of Florida in an attempt to provide a vehicle for comprehensive state regulation of water resources. The code consists of six chapters. The first creates a two-tiered administrative system comprised of a State Water Resources Board and a number of regional water management districts administered by governing boards. Chapter two subjects all consumptive uses of water, including existing uses, to regulation under a permit system; only domestic uses are exempt from regulation. Provision has also been made for competing applications and water shortages. Chapter three provides for well construction standards and the licensing of the well-drilling industry. Chapter four governs the construction of dams, impoundments and appurtenant works. Some of the prominent features of chapter five are its water quality plan with the water quality standards contained therein; construction permits for new outlets, disposal systems and treatment works; discharge permits; and the various enforcement powers available to both the state and local agencies. Chapter six is an optional chapter on weather modification.
This article reviews the essential elements of any regulatory system and introduces chapter two of the proposed Model Water Code as a basis for a state water resources program. While the authors have designed chapter two as part of an overall scheme for the regulation of water use and quality under a comprehensive state water plan, it can be treated in many respects as a self-contained unit and it is on this basis that chapter two is offered in this form.
Richard C. Ausness & Frank E. Maloney, A Modern Proposal for State Regulation of Consumptive Uses of Water, 22 Hastings L.J. 523 (1971).