Water, Environment, and Society

Water, Environment, and Society


Water is a natural resource that is used by all humans, animals, and plants. It is vital to conserve water bodies so as to prevent drying up of the rivers, streams, and dams and avoid contamination. Statistically, three-quarters of the Earth are covered by water. However, many countries across the world are faced with inadequate water supply caused by human activities such as deforestation and quest for settlement areas as the population continues to increase. With the state of the water crisis raises in many geographical regions, the government and advocates for natural resources conservation have improved methods of sensitizing the public on water conservation practices by enacting laws and policies that protect the water catchment areas. This paper will provide the meaning and significance of using phrases such as beneficial use, homestead acts, flow regime, riparian doctrine, and prior appropriation. It will also define and outline the Worster’s three modes of water control, discuss Ostrom’s common pool resources, and describe the Boelens arguments on the national policies. Lastly, an essay will be provided addressing the claim that the real problem is perpetual growth in the film Beyond the Mirage by Cody Sheehy.   


Beneficial Use 

  Beneficial use is a term used to describe the legal rights of enjoying a particular property such as air, water, and light by a person. This term has been employed by Getches to advance the claim that every individual has the right to access clean water legally. Thus no person should make water resources unfavorable for consumption. People should never purchase water from natural sources such as rivers because it is provided naturally. They can use the water to swim, cook, drink, and for aesthetic purposes (Getches, 1990.p 6). 

Homestead Acts 

  The Homestead Acts comprises the United States federal laws that provide a person with ownership of a land with little cost. Sometimes the property can be given freely. The act was extended to ownership of soil and farmers would acquire and operate farms. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave eligibility to women and immigrants to own land. The act is associated with consequences especially with water conservation because people claim the ownership of land thus has the freedom to utilize it in their interest (Getches, 1990.p 7). 

Flow Regime

Flow regime refers to the organization of streams, rivers, and catchment areas according to the flow characteristics. It helps understand the river viability, it is used in ecological studies and provides valuable information for water resource management, and planning conservation tools (Getches, 1990.p 8). 

Prior Appropriation

  This is the allocation of the use of a particular stream or river. The doctrine provides that the first person use a particular stream acquires the right for the continued utilization over the same. The subsequent users can utilize the remaining water. The author uses the phrase to the upstream water users should keep the water safe for the downstream users irrespective of the prior appropriation claim (Getches,1990.p 5). 

Riparian Rights 

The riparian rights provide the freedom to use water that is in your land. The author uses the phrase to elaborate the fact that the right to water cannot be sold or transferred independently. It is always sold with the adjoining land. The rights also cut across fish, boats, swimming, and other beneficial uses (Getches,1990.p 3). 

Worster’s Modes of Water Control 

Worster identified three modes of hydraulic water control. He defined each mode according to the scale of water works, the managerial authority, and goals. The first mode was the capitalist-state that was large and technologically advanced. It was controlled by an iron triangle of elected planners and corporate agriculturalists. The method was aimed at rationing, calculating, and having a limited accumulation of private wealth. The social organizations that involved a group of elites contended with one another. They accumulated capital that risked the environmental vulnerabilities that included degradation of ecological communities and problems with water quality and quantity. The second mode is the Agrarian State style that was practiced in Egypt. This was more intensive and ambitious method of control that concentrated power within a small region. The third mode was local subsistence control that was based on temporary structures and small-scale permanent works that interfered only with the local communities. Each technique constitutes a given historical way of using water in the community, and hence the politicization based on the level of control. The Capitalist state model was the more powerful and political and it can be differentiated from the other two in that it consisted of elected government officials and members of agricultural societies.

Common Pool Resources 

Common Pool Resources (CPR) is common property resources that are a combination of natural and human-made resource system. An example includes an irrigation system that consists of water as the natural resource and human constructed pumping mechanisms. The resources can be managed by government bodies, private individuals, and communities. However, Ostrom work is majorly on answering the question about the tragedy of the commons. For instance, if an irrigation system is governed and managed by the private sector, it is likely to succeed. She claimed that private property is the only way to protect resources from depletion and ruin. The government and the community management may not always succeed because of interfering factors such as politics. Ostrom gives eight principles that determine a successful CPR management. They include defining the group boundaries, matching rules governing the use of the public good to the local needs, ensuring that the people can take part in modifying the rules, and respecting the community members. Other strategies include developing a system for monitoring the member’s behavior, sanctioning rule violators, providing means of dispute resolution and making it a responsibility of every individual to protect the resource. With the above criteria, any management of a CPR can succeed because every person devotes their efforts to ensure the project does well.  

Boelen’s Argument 

  Boelen’s argues that the national policies that officially recognize water rights of indigenous communities in the Andes can end up further disempowering the communities.  The authorities enforce the rights to use water and manage the water resources. The local water management systems among the Andeans are vital in defining the livelihoods and the cultural traditions of the people. It is crucial to maintain the water levels so as to ensure food security. Water is becoming scarce as the population grows and the state policies do not respect the local rights systems. An example of a policy to illustrate this fact is the water code of 1981. This is causing an encroachment of the local water rights that has caused many consequences such as protests. The indigenous people have to register to use water as a commodity. Most of the people were unaware of these requirements and thus could not use it for drinking, irrigation, or for other beneficial uses. Secondly, a policy to exclude the indigenous people from making decisions concerning water management has caused protests in Andes.  There is no official recognition of local rights rather the management practices are reflective of power imbalances. With the lower representation in the policy-making process at national levels, the locals are likely to be excluded from the process and any right t water ownership withdrawn that would cause disempowerment of the locals. 


Beyond the Mirage filmby Cody Sheehy provides an illustration of the future of water in the West. The 60- minute’s movie reveals the new technologies and challenges the old ideas through interviews with different personalities in the film. It outlines the challenges facing the Arizona, Nevada, and California states and gives possible solutions that are being developed by Israel and China to address the water shortage. The film’s title is depictive that the supply of water is endless as argued by researchers such as Allan Webber, Caroline Scruggs, and John Fleck. This essay will address the claim that “the real problem is perpetual” by Allan Webber. 

  Allan Webber supports the problem of population increase to cause conflict over water allocation. Thinking about water, population, and the New Mexico economy he viewed the three as an untapped opportunity. To create value, one can take advantage of the surplus or the scarce commodity. For instance, the excess of the renewable energy can be used to improve the economy. Besides, the scarcity of water can create an opportunity of exporting water management knowledge to other countries in the world because water issue is a crisis in many parts of the world. In doing so, they would have put knowledge to work to create a better environment and economy. The real problem is population growth that calls for the creation of land for settlement.

  Caroline Scruggs argues that the exploitation of resources is becoming feasible due to the advancement of technology. As the population grows, better ways of doing things are coming up. However, the environmental consequences are increasing especially the contamination of water making it unsustainable. The conflict over the water allocation according to Caroline was technological growth.  John Fleck emphasized on the interconnectedness of the entire system. The movie came from Kathryn Sorensen who was the director of Phoenix’s water services. She asserted that the Phoenix water use is the same as it was two decades ago irrespective of the population increase.  Therefore, for John, population growth was not the real problem of water shortage rather the political and social environments surrounding. Caroline’s argument on technological improvements builds on Allan’s idea of the real issue being population. However, John’s claim is the opposite of Allan’s as he asserts that the use of water has remained to be the same even as the population increases. 


  The argument that the real problem that brings conflict over water allocation is population growth is true. This is because as the people continue to increase in number, it creates a need to settle them and provide the essential resources such as water to them. To meet their needs, the government has to strain the little resources available and sometimes regulate the use of the scarce available resources. For instance, it can limit the use of water for irrigation so as to afford water for drinking. The statement overlooks the fact that climatic changes have taken place despite the population having the control over it.  

Works Cited 

Beyond the Mirage: The Future of Water in the West. Dir. Cody Sheehy. Perf. University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Water Resources Research Center (WRRC). 1973. <beyondthemirage.org>.

Boelens, Rutgerd. “Indigenous Water Rights in the Andes: Struggles over Resources and Legitimacy.” Water Law (2009): 268-277.

Getches, David H. Water Law in Nutshell. New York: West Publishing CO., 1990.

Ostrom, Elinor, et al. “Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges.” Science Compass Review (1999): 278-281.

Postel, Sandra and Brian Richter. Rivers of Life: Managing Water and People and Nature. Washington: Island Press, 2003.

Roth, Andrew L. “Water as Commodity or Commons? Issues from the 2009 World Water Forum.” 3 May 2010.

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