GEOG 431
Geography of Water Resources



In Lesson 9, students will review the intent and chronology of major U.S. laws and international policies concerning water and wetlands. A one-page assignment will introduce you to a complex case (Rapanos v. United States) from the U.S Supreme Court that sought to address connectivity among waters. The case, decided in 2006, continues to make legal, technical, and political waves today in the U.S.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • discuss the laws and policies, and their underlying scientific and legal principles pertaining to water law, regulation, policy, and management;
  • arrange the chronology of major U.S. laws and international treaties and policies concerning water;
  • describe the basic intent of international treaties, laws, and institutions that are used to address and resolve water conflicts.

Lesson Roadmap

This lesson is one week in length. Please refer to the Course Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates. To finish this lesson, you must complete the activities listed below.

Lesson 9: Activities
Requirements Assignment Details Access/Directions
To Watch

Watch/Read through the Lecture 9.1 - Water Law Regulation & Policy PowerPoint file.

Registered students can access the Microsoft PowerPoint files under Lesson 9 in Canvas.

To Read


  • Chapter 10 - Water economics (ONLY p.353-365)
  • Chapter 11 - Water conflict, law and governance. (p.381-404)
  • McElfish, JM, Jr., and RP Brooks. 2013. Policy and regulatory programs affecting wetlands and waters of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Pages 441-462, Chapter 13 in RP Brooks and DH Wardrop (eds.) Mid-Atlantic Freshwater Wetlands: Advances in science, management, policy, and practice. Springer Science+Business Media, 491+xiv pp.
  • Rapanos White Paper: Brooks and Havens 2014, Proposal to USEPA


  • USEPA & Corps 2007 Rapanos Guidance (for those that want more detail on applying the Rapanos decision in the field)
  • The readings come directly from the course textbook (Holden 2014).
  • Registered students can access the McElfish/Brooks, Brooks/Havens, and the optional readings under Lesson 9 in Canvas.
To Do
  • Discussion #4: Water in the news

  • Assignment 9.1: Rapanos v. United States
  • Submit your post and replies under Discussion #4 in Canvas.
  • Submit your opinion paper under Assignment 9.1 in Canvas


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum located under Orientation and Resources in Canvas. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.

Credits: GEOG 431 Lesson 9 – Water law, regulation, and policy. Authored by Robert P. Brooks, Ph.D., Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University, 2014. Material adapted from the text, references cited, and information gleaned from the websites listed.