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October 1, 2013

Adell Amos provides legal expertise to Willamette Water 2100

University of Oregon School of Law Professor and Associate Dean Adell Amos is helping to plan for our water's future. 

She is lending her legal expertise to Willamette Water 2100, an interdisciplinary collaboration among the UO, Oregon State University, and Portland State University evaluating how climate change, population growth, and economic growth will change the availability and the use of water in the Willamette River Basin on a decadal to centennial timescale. The project also seeks to create a transferable method of predicting where climate change will create water scarcities and where those scarcities will exert the strongest impacts on human society. 

WW 2100 is a five-year project that began in 2010 and is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Amos, the law school's Oceans Coasts and Watersheds Project faculty leader, specializes in water law and has an extensive background in important water law issues. From 2009 to 2011, she served as Deputy Solicitor for Land and Water Resources in the United States Department of the Interior; she has represented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service on state and federal water rights issues including work involving the Klamath, Snake, Columbia, Middle Rio Grande, and Gunnison River Basins; and she has provided legal advice on the interaction of water law with other environmental statutes including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Federal Power Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.

Roy Haggerty, the Hollis M. Dole Professor of Environmental Geology at OSU and WW 2100 project lead, noted the importance of including a lawyer on the project team, specifically Amos.

"Adell Amos is a leading expert on water law," Haggerty remarked.  "We are fortunate to have her involved in the project to help us understand how the physical, biological, economic, and legal systems interact around water. She has a deep history of involvement in natural resources law at the state and federal levels."

Thus far, Amos has helped the team to understand the scope, applicability, and complexity of water law as it applies to the Willamette Basin. As the project and research progresses into policy discussions, Amos will lead a legal team comprised of Ocean Coasts and Watersheds law student fellows that will help determine how water law may impact water scarcity and how the legal system could respond if scarcity increases.

By providing legal research and analysis to WW 2100, OCW student fellows are not only gaining practical legal experience in the realm of environmental law, but are also providing a valuable service to their local communities by finding answers to legal problems facing one of the region's most depended upon watersheds.

"To work on the Willamette Water 2100 project with incredible legal minds, scientists, and other professionals outside of the legal community is truly an exciting experience," said OCW law student fellow Margaret Townsend ('14). At their first group meeting the student fellows agreed that WW 2100 is, "exactly the kind of project we hoped to work on when we decided to attend law school."

Amos shares her students' enthusiasm. "The work has been some of the most rewarding I have done in academia and a tremendous experience in interdisciplinary research," Amos said. "The really impactful part of this project, from my perspective, is that the model was built to allow us to explore different legal and policy scenarios in the basin, not just hydrological variance. So, that means we can model changes in policy and law and see the impact to the flow of water."

The ideal end result of WW 2100, according to Haggerty, is that Oregon will be better able to manage water scarcity.

"One of the advantages of studying water scarcity in the Willamette Basin is that people do not view water as scarce here. That makes it easier to have productive conversations because there isn't as much tension around the topic," Haggerty said. "Consequently, we may be able to learn to manage scarcity more efficiently and wisely than in a place with a lot of existing water scarcity. If we can do that, we may be able to provide ideas to the rest of the country where water is more scarce."

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