Thursday, September 14, 2023

Water law in common law cultures - Getzler's synthesis

The latest issue of Western Legal History is dedicated to the topic of "Water", and I plan to post on a number of the pieces in this issue. 

I'll start with Joshua Getzler's masterful survey of water law in Britain and many of the territories it ruled at various points in history, "Ownership and Control of Fresh Water in Common Law Cultures". Getzler manages not only to integrate major developments in many legal systems - including those of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Mandate Palestine - and across nearly a millennium (beginning with Bracton), into a succinct and coherent whole, but he does so while elegantly connecting classical doctrine with current concerns, such as environmental protection and indigenous water rights. 

One aspect of the article that I particularly liked was its unpacking of the intertwined and often contradictory lines of thought in the common law, which Getzler deftly connects to Romanist and feudal ideas of property.

I highly recommend this article to anyone looking for a broad yet succinct survey of the history of water law.

(For more on water law in the British Empire, see my posts here.)


  1. Thank you so much for continuing to share this sort of thing out. For an interested non-expert like me you remain a terrific resource.