Applying New International Principles of Transboundary Water Allocation to Florida v. Georgia’s Doctrine of Equitable Apportionment
By: Elizabeth Holden
Human conflicts over access to water often focalize around transboundary waterbodies. For example, in the United States, the “tri-state water wars” between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida are fights over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. These tri-state water wars demonstrate water’s economic and ecological value. Moreover, these conflicts are likely to escalate as the impacts of climate change decrease freshwater supplies globally.
Both in the United States and internationally, states traditionally address these conflicts through common law principles, such as the doctrine of equitable apportionment. The Supreme Court applied the doctrine most recently in Florida v. Georgia, reiterating the doctrine’s flexibility without extending its reach. In contrast, international legal principles of water allocation have evolved significantly in the last few decades, with a growing focus on intergenerational rights, humanitarian rights, equitable procedures, and rights for bodies of water themselves.
After considering the newly developed international principles, this Note proposes that some of those principles should be included in the interest-balancing test applied to equitably apportion water in the United States. Specifically, intergenerational considerations and humanitarian concerns should be incorporated into the doctrine of equitable apportionment to confront the shifting ecological, economic, and climatic conditions of the twenty-first century.