Professor Reed Benson spoke at the American Bar Association's Annual Water Law Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 5, 2014. He teamed up with California water attorney David Aladjem to debate the role of the federal government in basin-wide water management, especially in interstate and international water basins.
Benson says that the organizers of the conference wanted to set up a debate over the appropriate role of the federal government in water management. To make the debate more interesting, they asked Benson and Aladjem to be provocative and take somewhat extreme positions. Benson, arguing in favor of a strong federal presence, stated that the federal government plays several important roles in water management, including as a "gorilla" to ensure that states don't ignore national priorities.
He went on to discuss issues including the role of climate change, interstate conflicts, international concerns, tribal issues, and the existing federal nexus including reclamation projects, international treaties and federal water rights.
"A point-counterpoint debate about whether one size fits all and the federal role in managing regional water resources took added significance Thursday during an American Bar Association water-law conference at a casino in drought-threatened Las Vegas," writes Associated Press reporter Ken Ritter in the article, "Water issues draw debate at Vegas lawyers event," posted in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Albuquerque Journal staff writer John Fleck wrote about Benson's talk in an article titled, "Benson: in western water, we need the federal gorilla." Fleck starts the article with, "Our own UNM Law Professor Reed Benson," and says he "made the case for the importance of a stronger federal role in sorting out potential conflicts among states dealing with an increasingly scarce resource."
The AP story also quoted Benson as saying, "Federal money has been, and is today, important in addressing challenges with water resources where the deep pocket is needed. Finally, climate change is going to make these issues all the more difficult and that much more challenging."
Benson has written about his ABA Water Law remarks, and a range of other issues involving rivers in the West, on his blog, http://westernriverlaw.com/.