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Expert Available: Understanding the emerging legal battles over a precious resource

MU Law Professor Peter Davis shares his expertise in new edition of Waters and Water Rights

May 17th, 2018

Story Contact: Liz McCune, 573-882-6212,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Water has long been a source of dispute in much of the United States, but legal battles over this natural resource are rising due to issues such as climate change and population growth. Earlier this year, Peter Davis, the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Missouri, contributed his breadth of expertise in this area to several chapters in a new edition of Waters and Water Rights. The book is a collection of case law that covers topics such as water pollution laws, water rights and wetlands preservation.

As an academic, former environmental lawyer and research attorney, Davis is particularly knowledgeable about water laws related to Missouri and surrounding states, and the regulation of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

“Water laws are interesting because they impact people at both the micro and macro level, such as whether your neighbor is responsible if your property floods or discussing the ability of states to divert water from rivers for agricultural use,” he said.

Waters and Water Rights explores this highly complex and rapidly evolving area of law. Primarily national in scope, but with interstate, state-specific and international coverage, the reference book contains in-depth information on legal issues involving water rights, water usage and water quality. It is published by Matthew Bender/LexisNexis.

“We have not gotten to the point where water is treated like a commodity like oil is, but we could certainly get there,” said Davis, who has taught mining, oil and gas law, among other courses.

These issues are of increasing importance for several reasons:

  • Water is the resource that will likely require the greatest adaptation to many of the most critical impacts of climate change and may also provide opportunities for climate change mitigation.
  • Increases in population and development have put more pressure on this limited resource.
  • Litigation and government regulation over the allocation, use and quality of water continues to grow.