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Water Law and Policy - ENVIRON 324

The Class

How is it possible, living next to the largest surface freshwater system in the world, that we are facing water shortages? What are the threats to our nation’s water?

This course will search for the answers to these and related questions by examining the cultural, historical and political roots of U.S. water law and policy. In particular, we will look at water law and policy governing riparian states, prior appropriation states, tribal lands and groundwater. In addition, the course will examine the role of population growth, energy and climate change in formulating current and future water policy.

In order to understand the underlying motives and cultural values influencing the multiple stakeholders, policy makers and regulators, we will look at a variety of materials ranging from art, media and literature to key statutes, legal opinions and reports.

You will develop the skills to identify the historical precedents and values informing ongoing water debates and problems, analyze key statutes and opinions, evaluate solutions, and present a position.






Credits: 3

Meets: Winter Semester (January 4 - April 27, 2017)

Location: U-M Ann Arbor Campus

Instructor: Stacy Coyle

The Extension

Experience first-hand the intersection of science, law and public ethics that inform U.S. water policy. Basic field work, field trips and discussions with on-site researchers and relevant local stakeholders will help elucidate the thorny issues and competing interests that arise in efforts to better preserve and sustain our nation's waters as seen here in Michigan.


We'll look at the role of science, law and public values in identifying and reducing non-point source pollution, redeveloping brownfields in riparian zones, restoring wetlands, preserving endangered riparian species, and managing federally navigable waters. Exploring these issues will include field trips to


We will examine the case of the Maple River Dam removal. Building on the scientific data collected by researchers at the UMBS, you will examine the dam removal through the lens of the various public stakeholders (from the Friends of Maple River, to sportsmen, to Country Drain Commissioners, to riparian landowners and downstream towns) and the relevant state and federal water and environmental laws.

This will culminate in a comprehensive policy paper, in which you will integrate and effectively communicate the history of the dam, relevant scientific information, various stakeholders' positions, and the key statues and legal precedents to a targeted policy-maker, ranging from their congressmen to the MDEQ.





Credits: 2

Meets: May 21 - June 3, 2017

Location: U-M Biological Station

Instructor: Stacy Coyle

For more information, including how to register, contact Alicia Farmer,, 734-764-5212.