David H. Getches, Changing the River’s Course: Western Water Policy Reform, 26 Envtl. L. 157 (1996), available at http://scholar.law.colorado.edu/articles/683.
Throughout the history of the West, water law and policy have had a profound influence on the environment of the region. Power production, agricultural irrigation, and economic expansion of the Columbia River Basin have depended upon the institutions of water policy, including the prior appropriation doctrine and major water development in the form of large dams and diversions. This has rendered the river incapable of sustaining the rich salmon populations that once were the mainstay of Northwest Indian culture and supported a major fishing industry. Professor Getches concludes that traditional instruments of water policy in the West--the beneficial use requirement of the prior appropriation doctrine, the water projects that harnessed the river in the first place, and the historically unfulfilled ideal of watershed management--can be reformed and redirected to address many of the problems the river has suffered.
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