From Litigation To Arbitration: A Case Study In Water Resources Conflict

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Daniel P. Fernandez


Arbitration, Dispute Resolution, Litigation, Sustainability, Water


The business of water and competing uses for this precious resource in various parts of the United States often leads to conflict. Demand is outpacing supply, especially in the more heavily populated areas. This has led to intra-state and interstate disputes among prospective users of water and, in many cases, litigation. Against such a backdrop, this article examines a case that was litigated for more than five years. It was ultimately settled after a ruling by an administrative law judge. In order to provide sufficient background for the case, the discussion will first cover water law basics and water use permitting. Next, the discussion will touch on the salient parts of the litigation. Finally, the article will illustrate how an embittered five years of water wars litigation was resolved through an inter-local agreement providing for binding arbitration, generally a faster and less expensive form of dispute resolution than litigation. The choice of litigation vs. alternative dispute resolution can have significant economic consequences for public supply, industry and agriculture.


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