Active Water Resource Management: Pariah or Blueprint for Western Water Management?

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date

Winter 2018


The western United States is plagued with chronic water shortages, frequent drought, and unclear water rights. Attempts to deal with shortages are a complicated web of federal, state, and local management. Many river basins suffer from imperfect data about water ownership and priority (Matthews, 2004; Tarlock, 2006), constraining water managers during periods of water scarcity. The fallout from inadequate water planning is conflated by attributes of water rights being undefined. Considerable research has focused on watershed-level planning (Howe, 2005; Cohen and Davidson, 2011). Additional focus is needed on intergenerational planning (Mullin, 2009). Daly (1977) referred to such long-range planning as “moral growth,” and it icould be considered a cornerstone of sustainable water use. It could also be considered a “third rail” of multi-scalar resource management (Liverman, 2004; Perramond, 2012).

Many drought-stricken regions default to additional groundwater pumping during periods of water scarcity. Increasingly regions have recognized the need to restrict such action because of the deleterious effect it can have on senior surface water users (California Sustainable Groundwater Act, 2015; Whatcom County v. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, 2016). Mullin (2009) stated, “Communities are beginning to develop strategies for managing existing resources more effectively as it becomes more difficult to build their way out of water shortages.”


This article was originally published in Journal of the Southwest. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Journal of the Southwest


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