Just a Big, "Hot Fuss"? Assessing the Value of Connecting Suburban Sprawl, Land Use, and Water Rights through Assured Supply Laws

Davies, Lincoln L.
November 2007
Ecology Law Quarterly;2007, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p1217
Academic Journal
States and localities increasingly recognize the need to link land use and water supply planning. As the populace grows and sprawl continues, the strain on available natural resources, particularly water, makes this recognition all the more important. This Article addresses an increasingly common type of this planning link-- "assured supply" laws that require developers to prove they have secured adequate water stock before commencing construction. The Article performs a qualitative analysis of the potential benefits and costs of such laws and finds that, on balance, assured supply laws provide at least five significant benefits: consumer protection, greater holistic project- and agency-level planning, improved efficiencies in water rights allocation, and increased water conservation. Notably, however, these laws appear to do very little to diminish sprawl and, if designed incorrectly, may actually exacerbate it. The Article then extracts five dimensions around which localities might design their assured supply laws to maximize their benefits and minimize possible costs, concluding that such laws are most likely to deliver optimal benefits when they are (1) mandatory, (2) stringent, (3) statewide, (4) broadly applicable, applying to more than only large projects, and (5) interconnected with broader land-water and environmental planning mechanisms.


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