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Water law and natural resources management are fundamental to human society, environmental protection and economic productivity. Legal rules around water are found in all societies. Water is both a human right but also a source of conflict – that law seeks to regulate. There is increasing pressure on water globally, and extreme events such as drought, heighten tensions around water allocation in Australia and many other countries.
The subject considers the international laws governing freshwater, including trans-jurisdictional water governance for major shared river systems. It examines contemporary trends in water law and governance such climate change impacts on water availability. It provides an overview of common law rules around water allocation and water quality. There is a major focus on indigenous water rights and rights for rivers.
The subject provides an in-depth understanding of the federal water legislation governing the Murray-Darling Basin and the Victorian water legislation- including water trading. It introduces urban water laws, with a focus on water pollution controls. It examines the innovative reforms around environmental water and the ecological protection of rivers and groundwater. It provides a case study of the impacts on groundwater due to mining and fracking.
Principal topics include:
- International and comparative law and policy governing water, including relevant treaties and conventions, and case law
- Water rights: including human rights and Indigenous peoples’ rights
- Common law rules for surface and groundwater
- The Australian national water law reform model
- The Water Act 2007 (Cth), including water trading and water planning
- Environmental water law and regulation – including the Environmental Water Holders
- Victorian water laws, including water authorities and governance models
- Water quality: addressing point source and diffuse water pollution
- Integrated catchment legislation
- Urban water laws, including water-sensitive urban design.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will be able to:
- Appreciate the importance of water law at an international, national and regional level in terms of increasing water resource pressures and the impacts of human development upon water;
- Analyze the key features of international water law treaties, conventions and case law; including by reference to sustainability and human rights objectives.
- Analyze the sources of inter-jurisdictional conflicts over water, analyze the context for water law development in Australia;
- Appreciate common themes and challenges experienced in the water law regimes of other national jurisdictions
- Understand water law and policy at an Australian state and federal level, with specific knowledge of the Water Act 1989 (Vic); Water Act 2007 (C’th) and the Basin Plan;
- Understand and analyze the role of water markets;
- Synthesize knowledge about; and evaluate the development of environmental water law concepts;
- Understand and apply the general concepts of water quality and water pollution laws; and
- Reflect upon and critically evaluate issues around cultural water values and indigenous peoples’ rights to water.
Last updated: 28 September 2023