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Protecting Freshwater Resources in the Era of Global Water Markets: Lessons Learned from Bottled Water

Noah D. Hall, Wayne State University Law School


Throughout human history, water has defined our sense of place. American water law reflects the connections between water and local people, communities, and the environment. Against this backdrop, global water markets have developed to sell and export this increasingly precious resource. Water markets are recognized in international trade law and take many forms, from tankers of freshwater crossing the Mediterranean to bottles of spring water coming to America from distant pacific islands. While the scale of water sales and exports is still relatively small, this emerging market represents a new challenge for management of water resources. This article examines the challenge of protecting freshwater resources in the era of global water markets by looking at the most mature and developed example – bottled water. Bottled water in America dates back to colonial times, but over the past decade it has become a massive global industry. As bottled water has grown, so has the backlash against it. The resulting lawsuits and legislation offer a glimpse of the future of domestic water law in the global water market era. Bottled water fights provide important lessons for how the law should (and should not) respond to globalization of water use. By learning from these lessons, we can meet the challenge of global trade in water by developing effective legal protections for our freshwater resources.

Suggested Citation

Noah D. Hall. "Protecting Freshwater Resources in the Era of Global Water Markets: Lessons Learned from Bottled Water" University of Denver Water Law Review 13.1 (2009): 1-54.
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