Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014AL166B

Water Policy and Law in Alabama

Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $40,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $80,000

Principal Investigators: Bennett Bearden, Heather Elliott

Abstract: Alabama faces a major and expanding water crisis. Population growth and economic development are putting increasing pressure on water resources already strained by recent droughts, and such droughts are likely to become more frequent and more severe in the future. Disputes with neighboring states over shared water resources threaten Alabama’s use of interstate waters to meet future needs. Alabama’s current water-law regime, because it is primarily a judicially created common-law regime, is nowhere clearly explicated; such explication is necessary to determine its strengths and failings. We will provide a clear explication of Alabama water law and policy, covering the following topics: surface water rights, groundwater rights, irrigation, instream flows, interbasin transfers, water quality, watershed management, and drought management. We will also compare Alabama’s water-law regime to those of neighboring states (Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi), including the reliance in those states on water-resources permits, to illuminate our own system and to understand likely outcomes in ongoing conflicts with those states over our shared water resources.