Federal Regulation of Water Transfers

Birmingham Lawyers Chapter and Environmental Law & Property Rights Practice Group

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Traditionally, water has been abundant in the Eastern United States, and water transfers from one body of water to another were rarely a subject of dispute.  However, as the Eastern United States continues to grow and develop - particularly in the Southeast - many communities are looking to water transfers as a means of supplying adequate water supplies for municipal and industrial purposes, among other things.  Water transfers, however, raise a number of concerns, including both water quality and water quantity.  One such issue involves the extent to which water transfers require a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit ("NPDES") under the Clean Water Act.  On June 14, 2007, a federal judge in Florida issued a final judgment ordering the South Florida Water Management District ("SFWMD") to obtain a NPDES permit for a water transfer conducted as part of a federal water project.  Friends of the Everglades v. Dean, Case No. 02-80309 (S.D. Fla.).  This decision is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  The SFWMD argues that the extension of NPDES jurisdiction to water transfers encroaches on the traditional role of states to allocate water resources, commandeers states' water rights, threatens the important balance of cooperative federalism, imposes unnecessary administrative burdens upon water managers, and diverts resources from current restoration priorities.

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  • Mr. James Nutt, South Florida Water Management District
  • Mr. Gil Rogers, Southern Environmental Law Center
  • Mr. Brent Fewell, Hunton & Williams, Former U.S. EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water
  • Moderator: Mr. Steven G. McKinney, Balch & Bingham LLP