‘Water rights’ article wins prestigious award for UNE Academic

Published 17 November 2014

Dr M L ShepheardAn article into the ‘right’ to water co-authored by Dr Mark Shepheard from the University of New England has won the prestigious title of ‘best article 2014’ in the internationally-renowned Journal of Environmental Law.

Dr Shepheard, along with his colleague Associate Professor Bettina Lange from the University of Oxford, were awarded the Annual Richard Macrory Prize for their article Changing Conceptions of Rights to Water? An Eco-Socio-Legal Perspective.

Dr Shepheard said the article compiles research that he and A/Professor Lange carried out in England in 2012 and 2013 regarding stewardship and conceptions of water rights.

“Our research inquires into the meaning of a ‘right’ to water,” Dr Shepheard said.

“Importantly the research identifies that understanding how rights to water are affected by stewardship depends on social and geographical elements as well as the legal framework.

“We examine how the nature of such a right may be changing in the context of greater environmental regulation on water stewardship which seeks to tackle risks of water scarcity. What this means in practice is closely related to whether your perspective is at a farm or whole-catchment scale.

“We also look into the intersection between rights and regulation and how farmers feel about their own rights to water.

“This highlights that the right to water is not just an abstract legal concept. Its meaning is heavily dependent on the economic context that shapes social practice in relation to water use, and how right holders understand the environment in which they access and use water.

“The research suggests that farm production factors and green production standards are more significant in shaping conceptions of how a water right is qualified than the legal framework for water licensing.”

The Journal of Environmental Law is the world’s leading academic journal in its field. The Richard Macrory Prize is awarded each year for the most thought-provoking and innovative article published in the Journal in that year.