The United States is characterized by a high anthropogenic load on the hydrographic network, uneven distribution of water resources, and an unmeasured river regime.
The main river of the USA is the Mississippi, which, unfortunately, does not save this hydrographic area from uncoordinated actions. The decisive factor in its degradation is the impact of dams, drains, canals, locks, and other hydraulic structures. Over a century and a half, dams remain the “cornerstone” of flood protection, but they were built at different times, according to various plans, near the water edge, which did not make it possible to extinguish the destructive power of the wave. The vulnerability of the defense system manifested itself during the floods in the Mississippi and Missouri in 1993-1994. The Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, etc. rivers were literally crippled by the straightening and deepening of the channel, and the incorrect development of floodplains. In fact, as a result of anthropogenic transformation, rivers have become semi-artificial water bodies, suffering from intense sediment accumulation and eutrophication. Unfortunately, a self-confident person regulates water resources worse than natural factors and filters: meadows, forests, swamps, old river valleys, beaver dams. Over 90 years, the average annual flood damage has grown 2.5 times. Gradually, in the “New World” they began to understand the need to remove many of the artificial “obstacles” and give natural ponds and watercourses a certain freedom. In particular, it is expressed even in a spill on the flood plains that have recently been fenced off by dams and from this drying out. The authorities and interested business entities began to be encouraged to abstain from development. Many shafts had to be destroyed, but the floodplain ponds were still defenseless against backfill for a long time. Meanwhile, flood protection reservoirs could not prevent the devastating floods of 1993.
The major US lakes are known as the Great Lakes, which includes the world’s largest fresh natural reservoir – Lake Superior. They have a drain across the St. Lawrence River into the ocean. Since this international water system is mostly located in the United States, we have to take the main measures to clean these unique lakes left from the glacier. Their bottom was considered a collector of hazardous substances. In addition, this industrially developed region has over half of the best lands, fertile soil (chernozem), flat terrain, and optimal climatic conditions. The connection of the Great Lakes with the Mississippi basin, as well as other hydrotechnical transformations, turned this zone into the coast of a navigable waterway on which the urban landscapes of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee rise.
Traditionally, swamps were understood as “unnecessary” lands that must be transferred to private hands for subsequent land reclamation. Swamps and waterlogged lands began to be understood by American scientists as not at all unnecessary “inconvenience”, but an important factor in the stability of the landscape.
Public forms of ownership (federal and state) respond to the problems existing in the USA, and the water crisis makes the “market element” in the water sector unacceptable. At the same time, the state delegated a number of powers to non-governmental organizations.
The United States is characterized by an incomplete implementation of the basin approach in the organization of water management. There are several large basin organizations with mandatory involvement of water users, but the Environmental Protection Agency cannot impose a basin organization everywhere.
US water law initially had an economic rather than environmental aspect. The first federal law establishing a ban on the discharge of solid waste into the waters of the United States was the River and Cove Act of 1899. The legislator’s initial intention was to eliminate navigation barriers, but in the 60s XX century there was a “rebirth” of this act. Having received a new interpretation of the US Supreme Court, this law is still in force and is used to institute legal proceedings against industrial pollution of water bodies and watercourses.
In 1948, the Federal Law on the Control of Water Pollution, which is one of the first fundamental laws in the field of environmental protection. For the first time, the US Congress passed an act aimed exclusively at combating pollution of the aquatic environment. Subsequently, this law underwent significant changes in name and content (in 1965, 1972, 1977 and 1987). In the 1987 edition, this law covered almost all issues of preventing and eliminating all kinds of water pollution. Now it is called the Clean Water Act.
In 1924, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act, which prohibited the discharge of oil waste into coastal waters. After numerous changes and additions, this law was repealed. Only in 1990 that the new Law on Oil Pollution was adopted, which mainly addressed the issues of compensation for damage caused by oil spills.
In 1953, the Law on the Submerged Lands and Lands of the Outer Continental Shelf was passed, delimiting the jurisdiction of the states and the USA. The states are responsible for submerged land and natural resources within the 3-mile zone of the territorial sea, and the federation is responsible for the natural resources of the outer continental shelf outside the 3-mile zone. However, the regulation of navigation, trade, defense and the conclusion of international agreements remained within the competence of the United States.
The full scale national marine policy was reflected in the Law on Marine Resources and Technical Development of 1966, as well as in the Law on the Protection of the Marine Environment of 1972 (as amended). The last law regulates the transportation and dumping of waste into sea waters, provides for the creation of special marine zones, within which nature management is limited by the tasks of preserving the integrity of marine ecosystems. The first marine reserve was created in 1975. Marine reserves are created in regions with special environmental, scientific, historical and other value. They cover both land and sea.
It should be recognized that the legislation on US aquatic biological resources is also imbued with the idea to create a kind of “marine reserves”. This idea was expressed by US President F. Roosevelt back in 1937. In an updated form it was implemented in the Law “On the conservation of fish resources and on their management” in 1976. The latter establishes the procedure for creating special state-controlled fisheries management zones.
Marine environment protection is not possible without coastal protection. In 1972, the Law on the Management of the Coastal Zone was adopted, providing for a permit procedure for economic activities in coastal spaces. Obviously, this law was adopted on the basis of extreme vulnerability and at the same time the value of the coasts.
US water law is characterized by the fact that specific flood and irrigation measures in individual basins and sub-pools (Lower Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio) are enshrined and regulated by separate laws. Another important feature is the creation of a federal interagency committee for river basins, as well as regional interagency committees for Missouri, Columbia, Arkansas, Red River, New England and New York rivers, and the Pacific Southwest. Montana state legislature also provided for the creation of various joint commissions and research centers for the study of waters. Since the 20s XX century Interstate agreements are concluded for the distribution of interstate river flows. These agreements were concluded on large-scale projects, two of the 26 agreements concluded by them were approved by the US Congress and received the force of law. This metamorphosis is very interesting from the point of view of the reasons and conditions for the transformation of contract law into law.
However, far from always agreements between states have an impeccable manner of presentation, excluding different interpretations of the agreement. So, since 1974, water distribution litigation has been going on to the US Supreme Court. The states of Kansas and Colorado were sued because of the Colorado River, because of the Pecos Texas and New Mexico. During the process, it was revealed that the distribution of water came from unrealistic, inflated volumes. But there was also a deeper reason for the emergence of disputes – a change in the economic situation that the drafters of the s did not foresee.
Landowners do not have the right to arbitrarily drain and develop some coastal areas, as well as water and swamp areas. They are not even entitled to compensation for compliance with such a ban. Otherwise, the state is authorized to charge for the strengthening of washed private beaches, because this significantly increases their cost. To maintain a balance of private and public interests, it must be borne in mind that private ownership of land is not absolute. In 18 states, the authorities adhere to just such a position and only in four, on the contrary, they are “on the occasion” of private owners. An attempt to secure the adoption of the federal act on compensation in the aforementioned cases provoked opposition from the B. Clinton administration.
In 1965, the Law on the Establishment of a Fund for Financing the Protection of Land and Water Resources was adopted, allowing land acquisition and acquisition for recreational and hunting use. According to another Law of the USA of 1968 “On Wild and Picturesque Rivers”, a new category of specially protected natural objects arises, which is a type of conservation land. This is a dominant conservation area. This act covers rivers with picturesque, recreational, geological, historical, and other environmental characteristics. Such a non-exhaustive list of criteria, as American lawyers rightly believe, does not have sufficient accuracy. However, this drawback is mitigated by the classification of the “wild and picturesque rivers” themselves. The law divides them into three groups: wild, picturesque, recreational. The waters of the first group should not be polluted and washed by the “pristine” banks, and there is no access to their watersheds by road. The same requirements in milder forms are also imposed on picturesque rivers.
The 1968 Law provides for the creation of special corridors on both banks of rivers with a special nature management regime. The area of such corridors should be at least 10 acres per 1 mile, i.e. approximately 25 m from each coast. The law does not provide a final list of prohibited and permitted activities within such lands, but law enforcement practice has chosen a rather flexible path. As a rule, they cost only some restriction on the construction of roads, settlements, the location of industrial enterprises, logging, grazing. The greatest economic freedom is provided on recreational rivers.
The law allows for the allocation of corridor areas from the territories of federal departments that retain some managerial powers in relation to them. The redistribution of land between federal departments, their free transfer from the states to the federal government, as well as the acquisition by the state of limited property rights from private landowners are also possible. “Picturesque treason” means the right of the state to control the use of the territory (land and airspace above it) in accordance with the objectives of protecting the natural qualities of wild, picturesque and recreational rivers.
The intention of the legislator is to preserve all three groups of rivers in the most natural state and prohibit the further use of these streams for the construction of hydroelectric power stations, reservoirs, canals, and other water management projects.
Preservation of the pristine state is one of the tasks of recognizing the natural complex as the “common heritage”. These are considered the bottom and bed of waters, some of their flora and fauna (forests), atmospheric air. Water-covered areas are considered to be in the public domain, a pond and watercourse can be used to move and transport containers. The alloy of wood on one of the rivers made it possible to recognize its bottom as a “common heritage”. The recognition by the government of the river “wild and beautiful” entails the inadmissibility of the construction of the dam, for example, due to the nesting of cranes and storks. The process about the fate of the Fox Head island of 15 thousand hectares in North Carolina, which was threatened by deforestation for the construction of houses, caused great resonance. The Court of Appeal upheld the lawsuit since due to the closure of the island with the bottom and bed of the river and the ocean, the public domain regime extends to the coast and the beaches of the estuary, which are quite rational for recreation.
According to judicial practice, private rights to water should not undermine the traditional rights of the population to recreation, fishing, shipping, and the state should not compromise with the public interest. When it does allow this, the court intervenes.
In a number of arid and most recently developed states, the rule of water use seniority applies. Traditional copyright holders (most often farmers) have pre-emptive water rights that “get along” with state ownership of the water body. However, this does not give them grounds for irrational, or rather, selfish behavior, depriving the “younger neighbor” of natural goods.
In the eastern states of the United States, there is the so-called principles of coastal law, consisting in the exclusive right to water use of coastal land owners. In addition, it is forbidden to drive the discharged water to the wedged area or to divert to the drainage zone of another water body.