Too Hot to Handle: Climate Change and Agricultural Water Use

Denise Fort


The world faces enormous challenges in responding to looming crises in food and water. Responding to this challenge will require flexibility; such flexibility may be impeded by legal institutions. This paper looks at the western United States and discusses the role of irrigated agriculture in that region. Because of climate change, a growing population, declining groundwater, the need to protect ecosystems and other conflicts, the author suggests that all water uses, including long-standing agricultural water rights, need to be examined in light of these changes. Legal systems have tended to serve the status quo, but perhaps the law can help facilitate this re-examination.


Western United States water law; agricultural water use; water rights; environmental water needs;

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