Annual Institute on Mineral Law


Mark Davis


Louisiana has a long and complex relationship with water, one that figures to get more interesting and complex in the years ahead. Culturally and economically, water has shaped Louisiana in powerful and obvious ways. Legally, the relationship has been more obscure, defined more by specific uses and periodic crises that command great attention, than by a systematic approach to management. Louisiana is hardly unique in this regard; indeed this has been the general approach that "wet" eastern and southern states have taken to water management and law. As a result, water law as a discipline and area of practice has not really developed here. But it likely will soon. Indeed it is already changing as members of the mineral law bar can attest. The state and bar are increasingly facing a future in which water, even in Louisiana, is a scarce resource that demands a well thought out and integrated approach to its stewardship. Truth be told, that future is here. The need to purposefully balance navigation, flood control, environmental, agricultural, industrial and drinking water supplies is already pressing and becoming more so. If things were not complicated enough, regional and interstate water needs are also growing as are energy driven water uses . Louisiana will soon find that if it does not make plans for its water, then someone else will. This is a very different world from the one that saw Louisiana's current water laws take shape. Louisiana has not been unaware of this changing environment and has taken some steps to adapt but it is likely those are just the opening acts of what promises to be an extremely compelling drama. Before proceeding a caveat is in order. This paper is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of either Louisiana water or emerging issues. That is almost certainly needed, is beyond the scope of what time and space allow here. Rather this paper should be seen as a reconnaissance of key elements of the law and select issues that are likely to command attention in the coming.