Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

Issues of transboundary allocation of water resources and its environmental effects are, virtually by their very nature, ones that require collaborative solutions. In the absence of international law norms and institutions to resolve sovereign claims to the waters of international rivers, much of the decisionmaking is left to the collaborative, or negotiated, arrangements between the countries involved and their respective domestic stakeholders. This Article examines collaborative efforts to allocate waters in the Colorado River basin as they relate to the lowest reaches of that great river, the ecologically important but very fragile Colorado River Delta in Mexico. Collaboration is sometimes promoted as preferable to environmental decisionmaking through formal legalistic mechanisms and institutions. Its purported advantages include the flexibility to include stakeholders who might be disempowered in a formal legal context, the ability to develop a widely agreed upon information basis for resolving factually complex questions, and the potential for elevating shared values over contested ones. This review does not seek to contest any of those points, but it does sound a cautionary note--namely, that solutions reached by collaborative processes are not necessarily beneficial for the environment or for those constituencies that promote or benefit from its protection. Collaboration alone, without structuring the legal and economic framework for policymaking to provide specifically for the goal of protecting the delta, is unlikely to move much water downstream to where it's needed to save the imperiled delta.

Publication Citation

8 Nev. L.J. 853 (2008).