Environmental and Economic Pitfalls of Interstate Water Transfers

AuthorMicah Goodwin
PositionB.A., Centenary College of Louisiana; J.D., University of Arkansas School of Law
Pages740-777
Louisiana Law Review Louisiana Law Review
Volume 80
Number 3
Spring 2020
Article 7
9-15-2020
Environmental and Economic Pitfalls of Interstate Water Environmental and Economic Pitfalls of Interstate Water
Transfers Transfers
Micah Goodwin
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Repository Citation Repository Citation
Micah Goodwin,
Environmental and Economic Pitfalls of Interstate Water Transfers
, 80 La. L. Rev. (2020)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/lalrev/vol80/iss3/7
This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Law Reviews and Journals at LSU Law Digital
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________________________________________________________________________
Environmental and Economic Pitfalls of Interstate
Water Transfers
Micah Goodwin*
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction.................................................................................. 740
I. The Basis for Interstate Water Transfers...................................... 746
A. Surface Water Regimes ......................................................... 746
B. Groundwater Management .................................................... 748
C. The Supremes Declare,
“There Shalt Be Commerce” ................................................. 751
II. The Relative Myth of Interstate Water Markets........................... 754
A. What We Know About Interstate Water
Marketing 30 Years Post-Sporhase ....................................... 754
B. Major Problems Confronting Interstate
Water Transfers ..................................................................... 757
III. Dealing with (and in) Interstate Water Markets........................... 762
A. The Players ............................................................................ 763
B. If They Must Exist… .............................................................765
C. What Is Water Worth? ........................................................... 768
D. The Morality of Selling Water............................................... 773
Conclusion.................................................................................... 775
Copyright 2020, by MICAH GOODWIN.
* B.A., Centenary College of Louisiana; J.D., University of Arkansas
School of Law. The author is an environmental attorney practicing in the Rogers,
Arkansas, office of Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. He
thanks his wife, Dorrie, whose patience and contributions helped this Article
across the finish line.
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740 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 80
INTRODUCTION
While our nation’s population skyrockets to new heights, its fresh
water supply is dwindling.1 Aquifers are lower and rivers drier,2 even in
regions traditionally labeled as “water-rich.”3 The United States depletes
its aquifers by roughly 2.3 trillion gallons of groundwater every day,4
pushing many beyond their sustainable yield. As the population continues
to grow, so will the demand for electricity generation,5 one of the largest
water-consuming industries in the United States.6 Even ignoring the
impacts of climate change on freshwater resources,7 many consider our
1. ROBERT GLENNON, UNQUENCHABLE: AMERICAS WATER CRISIS AND
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT 1617, 23102 (2009); SANDRA COLBY ET AL ., U.S.
CENSUS BUREAU, PROJECTIONS OF THE SIZE AND COMPOSITION OF THE U.S.
POPULATION: 2014 TO 2060 2 (Mar. 2015), available at https://www.census.gov
/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/demo/p25-1143.pdf [https://perm
a.cc/7KT4-25CB] (discussing population projections).
2. See, e.g., ROBERT GLENNON, WATER FOLLIES: GROUNDWATER PUMPING
AND THE FATE OF AMERICAS FRESH WATERS 4550 (2002).
3. See LEONARD KONIKOW, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURV., U.S. DEPT OF INTER.,
GROUNDWATER DEPLETION IN THE UNITED STATES (19002008) (20 13),
available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2013/5079/SIR2013-5079.pdf [ https://
perma.cc/A2N4-X49B]; Kenneth Gould, An Introduction to Water Rights in the
Twenty-First Century: The Ch allenges Move East, 25 U. ARK. LITTLE ROCK L.
REV. 3, 45 (2002) (discussing Arkansas’s diminishing aquifer dilemma).
4. This determination is based on groundwater withdrawal estimates from
2000 to 2008. See Leonard Konikow, Contribution of Global Groundwater
Depletion Since 1900 to Sea-Level Rise, 38 GEOPH. RES. LETTERS L17401 (2011).
5. According to one estimate, the nationwide electricity demand will double
between 2000 and 2050. Benjamin Sovacool & Kelly Sovacool, Identifying
Future Electricity-Water Tradeoffs in the United States, 37 ENERGY POLY 2763,
2763 (2009). This may or may not occur because electricity demand years from
now is difficult to predict, especially given advances in electricity efficiency
technology.
6. MOLLY MAUPIN ET AL., U. S. GEOLOGICAL SURV., ESTIMATED USE OF
WATER IN THE UNITED STATES IN 2010: CIRCULAR 1405 10 (2014), available at
http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1405/pdf/circ1405.pdf [https://perma.cc/9ZMW-T5UY].
7. See Kathleen Miller, Grappling with Uncertainty: Water Planning and
Policy in a Changing Climate, 5 ENVTL & ENERGY L. & POLY 395 (2011)
(discussing the impact of climate change on water management and the difficulty
of predicting precipitation pattern shifts).

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