Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


It is black letter constitutional theory that the several states are the masters of their property law, and hence their water law. For that reason, states have been free to adopt regimes as widely different as reasonable use riparianism and prior appropriation, depending on local conditions and perceived needs. Superimposed on the same physical water resource network, is the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The presence of Corps' facilities in basins now experiencing short supply opens the door to state and federal water allocation conflict that calls for mediation under the principles of water federalism, a doctrine that has varied considerably over time. This article will recount those changes in doctrine and then consider whether any of the past variations of water federalism are well-suited to contemporary conditions.