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Throughout history, and at both the local and international levels, attempts to resolve water disputes have often focused on augmenting the water supply. The assumption has been that scarcity drives conflict, and that disputes can be “diluted” by increasing the amount of water, through desalination, cloud-seeding, water pipelines, or other methods of water augmentation. However, when water augmentation has inequitable impacts, or where water itself is merely a symbol of a different dispute (over sovereignty, for example), water augmentation can make disputes more contentious. This presentation will discuss the promise and pitfalls of a “water dispute dilution” approach in disputes between refugees and host communities, between indigenous peoples and neighboring communities, and in basin-wide disputes in the Colorado River Basin and Jordan River Basin. The goal of this discussion is to understand when and why water augmentation may aggravate or mitigate water disputes.
Rhett Larson is the Richard Morrison Professor of Water Law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. He is also a senior research fellow with the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Professor Larson’s research and teaching interests are in property law, administrative law, and environmental and natural resource law, in particular, domestic and international water law and policy. Professor Larson’s research focuses on the impact of technological innovation on water rights regimes, in particularly transboundary waters, and on the sustainability implications of a human right to water. He works on dispute resolution and improved processes in water rights adjudications in Arizona and the Colorado River Basin with the Kyl Center for Water Policy. He is the Principal Investigator on a USAID-funded applied research project improving water supplies for refugee host communities in Lebanon and Jordan. Professor Larson was a visiting professor and Fulbright Scholar at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, a visiting fellow with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, a Lady Davis Fellow and visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Just Add Water: Solving the World’s Problems Using its Most Precious Resource (Oxford University Press, 2020).
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