A new report from the Institute of Public Policy in California shows us how water conflicts can be resolved using tactics from mediation’s playbook. The key idea is that the environment itself is a stakeholder. Right now, water resources are allocated to diverse sources: endangered species, farmland etc., on an as-needed basis. Resentment grows between farmers and environmentalists, as there is no cooperation on how to protect the environment. The report suggests that environmental water budgets would be a good way to allocate resources to specific ecosystems, plan better for drought and even lease excess water. When farmers feel like their water rights are constantly being bled away by allocating resources to the environment, there is a sense of scarcity. But what if there’s another stakeholder — the environment? The concept of sharing resources becomes possible when the environment also has rights.

At Boileau Conflict Solutions, recognizing the interests of diverse stakeholders is a cornerstone of our dispute resolution practice. We believe that environmental and animal rights pave the way for cooperation over our common resources. When the environment becomes more than property to be fought over, it becomes an entity with interests that can be considered by all parties working together. We use game theory to resolve diverse interests — and water interests can be incredibly complex, interwoven and diverse. The report suggests a way for all parties to benefit from better management of the environment. When water is set aside for strategic use rather than diverted on an ongoing basis, stability and cooperation is more likely. Farmers are no longer being “deprived” of water continuously, the ecosystem is being protected from inadequate responses to crisis by advance planning for shortages, and water is being used more efficiently to benefit all.

When we mediate water conflicts, our goal is to help parties establish a long-term vision of efficiency and mutual benefit. Until parties can cooperate, water will be managed inefficiently. We strongly believe that resolving water conflicts has a net positive impact on the future. Not only are you resolving your individual conflict, you are paving the way for better management of resources in the future. We have offices in Irvine, CA, Campbell, CA, Boulder, CO and Beverly Hills, CA. We are available 7 days a week at urgent notice via Zoom, Facetime or Telephone. Remote conflict resolution can be arranged if needed. Please contact us to see how we can help.

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