Water Law: Water Law and Policy Initiative
The Marquette University Law School Water Law and Policy Initiative seeks to help establish the Law School and, more broadly, Marquette University as a center for study, exploration, discussion, and education concerning water issues. Using an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, the Initiative seeks, among other things, to assess the legal and regulatory aspects of water policy, to pursue opportunities for information exchange and collaboration within and outside the University, and to provide the means for the public to become better informed on legal and policy aspects of critical water-related issues.
For more information, please contact Professor David Strifling, Director of the Water Law and Policy Initiative.
Current and Recent Conferences, Events, and Projects
- Water Policy in the Chicago Megacity: Past, Present, and Future. On Thursday, October 14, 2021 from 9:00-12:00 noon central time, please join us for a complimentary online event titled “Water Policy in the Chicago Megacity: Past, Present, and Future.” As the title implies, we will focus on aspects of the past, present, and future of water policy in the “Chicago Megacity”—the region stretching from the Milwaukee area, across metropolitan Chicago, and into northwest Indiana. The event is presented in partnership with Current’s Chicago Water Week 2021 and builds on past Marquette Law School conferences about the Chicago Megacity, across a range of issues including water, transportation, education, and economic development. It will cover some of the issues that Milwaukee, Chicago, and other cities in the Megacity will face together, including an exploration of the history of the internationally acclaimed Chicago lakefront, an examination of the Megacity region's water infrastructure crisis, and a discussion of the Megacity region's readiness for incoming migration due to climate change. The virtual event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Registrants will receive a detailed agenda and participation link the day before the event. To register for this event, please click here.
- Milwaukee 2025: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward. Ten years ago, Marquette University Law School convened a conference titled “Milwaukee 2015: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward.” Participants mapped a pathway for Milwaukee to emerge as a worldwide water hub. As one local leader put it: “My dream is that by 2015, when people think water, they think Milwaukee.” A decade later, we reconvene to examine how far the region has come toward achieving that goal. The conference will also look forward to the next decade and consider the next stage of the region’s development in the face of competition from other parts of the country that have the same objective. View the recorded event online here.
- Evaluating the Great Lakes Compact on its Tenth Anniversary. On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, we welcomed former Wisconsin governor James Doyle, noted author Peter Annin, and other experts to evaluate the Great Lakes Compact on its tenth anniversary. On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Great Lakes Compact into law. Since then, southeastern Wisconsin has proved to be a hotbed for controversy involving exceptions to the Compact’s general ban on diversions of water from the Great Lakes basin. In September 2017, the Compact Council began the process of drafting updates to the procedures, guidance, and rules used to implement the Compact. Ten years after it became law, this event will evaluate how successful the Compact has been to date, will explore current controversies and proposed revisions to the Compact, and will consider what may be in store in the second decade. The conference is another in a series of events presented by Marquette Law School’s Water Law and Policy Initiative. Registration will open at 8:30 a.m. and the event will conclude with a light “to-go” lunch at 11:45 a.m. in the Law School’s Zilber Forum. This is a free event, but registration is required. View the recorded event online here.
- Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century. Marquette Law School and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have previously explored together the “Chicago Megacity”—the region stretching from the Milwaukee area, across metropolitan Chicago, and into northwest Indiana—on a range of issues including economic development, transportation, and education. On April 17, 2018 we expanded that focus to water. A 2012 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report on the Chicago Megacity found that some of the region’s greatest advantages lie in its access to and expertise in water, as it is home to the top water-related cluster in the United States. But in the years since, water-related competition or outright disagreement has sometimes prevailed over cooperation, and the resource is under increasing strain. This conference explored the future of the Chicago Megacity’s relationship with water, including the challenges and opportunities the region faces. This required a special focus on interactions with Lake Michigan, the dominant geographic feature of the region. Participants from a variety of disciplines discussed topics such as the Chicago Megacity's responsibility to protect Lake Michigan from various threats, whether and how Lake Michigan should be used as a tool for economic development in the region, and the challenge of delivering a safe and reliable water supply. View the event podcast at this link.
- Designing Governance Mechanisms to Facilitiate Effective Intergovernmental Cooperation on Watershed Issues - Recent studies have advocated management of water resources using an integrated approach at the watershed level, necessarily crossing traditional geopolitical and agency boundaries. Generally, this “integrated watershed management” methodology aims to coordinate development and management of water and related resources so as to maximize economic and social welfare without compromising environmental sustainability. Although its precise scope and content remains unclear, implementation of the approach requires innovative and cooperative governance mechanisms. This project aims to better define and evaluate specifics for its use in two areas: 1) Controlling nonpoint pollution from agricultural sources; and 2) Overcoming legal and policy barriers to adoption of green infrastructure. Effective intergovernmental cooperation in these areas could lead to environmental and technological advances.
- Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus - In May 2017, he Law School hosted an interdisciplinary workshop, Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus, drawing from engineering, legal, scientific, and policy spheres to offer a unique perspective on the food-energy-water nexus. The workshop format and accompanying discussions (1) provoked conversations about overcoming barriers to the implementation of innovative water solutions, (2) stimulated ideas for focused academic research in the nexus, and (3) drove the development of organizational policy and technology roadmaps. The event incorporated sessions on energy use, recovery, and minimization at water and wastewater utilities; on groundwater; on agricultural sustainability and food waste; and on ethical considerations for stakeholders, a topic often absent from similar events. A working lunch and roundtable discussion as well as breakout sessions invited and encouraged broad-based attendee participation. Attendees also had numerous opportunities to network with experts, researchers, and students. This event is sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Water Equipment and Policy. View the recorded event online here.
- Public Policy and American Drinking Water - As part of its core mission, the Water Law and Policy Initiative seeks to provide opportunities for public engagement and education on legal and policy aspects of critical water-related issues. Amid great concern about the future of water quality and quantity, Marquette Law School hosted a major conference titled “Public Policy and American Drinking Water.” The conference took an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the legal, scientific, engineering, and environmental water issues that fill today’s news and touch all of our lives. Leading figures from a variety of disciplines – including Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech – discussed topics such as lead and aging infrastructure, privatization of water systems, public perceptions of water quality issues, the (under)valuation of water, and quantity and quality concerns related to groundwater. View the entire conference online here.
- Creating Policy Options to Reduce Chloride Discharges to Area Waterways - This project, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation Industry/University Collaborative Research Center for Water Equipment and Policy, created and evaluated a menu of legal and policy options for policymakers to address high chloride concentrations in area waterways likely caused by the excess application of salt for winter deicing, in combination with other sources such as water softeners. The resulting interdisciplinary paper, available for download here, examines the underlying causes of unsustainable chloride pollution from a scientific and engineering perspective. It explores the relative strengths of options such as incentivized self-governance at the community or individual levels; informational strategies to encourage optimal chloride use levels for deicing and in water softening applications; direct legal and regulatory mechanisms or mandated best practices issued pursuant to the Clean Water Act, state regulations, or municipal ordinances; use of chloride alternatives such as green infrastructure and substitute deicing substances; integrated watershed management; and direct economic measures. The paper does not suggest that all these options are appropriate in every context, nor does it rank them from most to least useful. Those decisions are left to affected stakeholders. Instead, the paper examines the technical and legal contours of each option, and links the scientific underpinnings to the legal and policy dimensions. This approach increases the likelihood that ultimate policy decisions can be both legally defensible and scientifically sound. Professor Strifling also serves on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s Chloride Impact Study for the Southeastern Wisconsin Region.
- Transboundary Waters and Societal Destinies – This project evaluates governance and legal structures at the international, national, and state levels that – intended or not - have the effect of incentivizing state actors to “take” transboundary waters for individual gain. This research will evaluate whether the overwhelming need to maintain access to transboundary resources has caused states to instrumentally select and interpret legal doctrines to ensure that outcome.
- Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership - Marquette University and A. O. Smith Corporation led a top-level national initiative aimed at ensuring the continued global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing. Focusing on water and manufacturing, the resulting report is a sector study that evaluates the use and re-use of water, the energy-water nexus, identifying water-use related risk and highlighting new technologies for water use efficiency, in addition to exploring policies for water-manufacturing and energy across the United States. Click here for details.
Recent and Upcoming Events
- Water Law Update (1 CLE credit) (March 4, 2020) (view podcast at link)
- Milwaukee 2025: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward (November 5, 2019) (view podcast at link)
- Evaluating the Great Lakes Compact on its Tenth Anniversary (October 2, 2018) (view podcast at link)
- Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century (April 17, 2018) (view podcast at link)
- Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus (May 16, 2017) (view podcast at link)
- Public Policy and American Drinking Water conference (September 7, 2016) (view podcast at link)
- Marquette University Mission Week 2016 – earthjustice: committing to our sacred world (January 31-February 5, 2016)
- “On the Issues” with Mike Gousha – Waukesha’s Water Diversion Request: Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly and Racine Mayor John Dickert (February 4, 2016) (view podcast at link)
- Speakers from Practice: Milwaukee’s World Water Hub (March 2017)
Interested in learning more?
Visit our blog to explore a wide range of water-related issues.
Read our latest newsletter (contact Professor Strifling to be added to our mailing list).
For more information about Milwaukee's broader water cluster and technology hub, visit The Water Council.