Water Law

Elective Course
Course Number: LAW 663
Credits: 3

The law plays a critical role in determining how our scarce water resources are used and allocated. This course examines the historical events and customs that led to the water laws we have today. The course then covers modern-day water permitting regulations and the adjudication of historic water rights. From there, the course explores emerging issues that a water lawyer will face in practice – from water marketing, to instream flow protection, to recreational access, to coal bed methane development.

The course compares the differences between water law in the eastern and western United States, and then focuses on the Rocky Mountain West and the variations among the states in our region. Alongside a selection of national readings, students study the specific water laws of Montana. Although water law is primarily the province of state law, the course also addresses tribal water rights, federal water rights, and interstate water allocation.

Finally, students practice water lawyer skills, including researching and analyzing water rights, handling water rights in a real estate transaction, and appearing before a water court in an adjudication proceeding.