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    Author(s): Daina Dravnieks Apple
    Date: 2001
    Source: Forest Service Publication
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous
    Station: Washington Office
    PDF: Download Publication  (734.22 KB)


    Water, everybody needs it -- and as our population grows, our demands become more and priority uses of water, who uses it, and how it is used become more important. This paper traces almost 200 years of water law history in the United States from the development of water rights doctrine to a current federal water policy that is unclear, has conflicting goals, is implemented by a maze of agencies and programs, lacks a clear policy and coordination, and creates gridlock. The Unified Federal Policy was developed to ensure a consistent approach to managing Federal lands on a watershed basis, to protect, maintain, and improve watershed conditions and water quality. The Unified Federal Policy is a beginning, but it does not go far enough. The Nation needs to implement a unified, powerful, and overarching policy framework and operating system that regularly and periodically integrates the shifting water use priorities as American megatrends evolve, measures changes in priorities when and where they occur, and then creates and incorporates a concomitant learning system that anticipates and makes changes in policies and practices to meet newly emerged needs and uses. Hydrologic, ecological, social, and economic issues must be appropriately addressed and tailored to meet the water management challenges of the next century Only if this, or other like actions are taken will we truly have a unified policy for managing water.

    Publication Notes

    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Apple, Daina Dravnieks. 2001. Evolution of U.S. Water Policy: Toward a Unified Federal Policy. Forest Service Research Paper. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service, Washington Office. 20 p.

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