Incorporating Water Resources in Local Land Use Planning and Regulation

Incorporating Water Resources in Local Land Use Planning and RegulationBy: Jesse Richardson

Lead Land Use Attorney Jesse Richardson recently presented a paper at the “Property Rights and A Changing Economy” Conference in Portland, Oregon. The conference was sponsored by the International Academic Association on Planning, Law and Property Rights. He also chaired a session on agricultural land use issues. Richardson’s paper is entitled “Incorporating Water Resources in Local Land Use Planning and Regulation”. The paper uses Maryland’s required Water Resources Element in local comprehensive plans and Washington State’s similar state requirement that local governments include provisions to “protect water quality and water quantity” in local comprehensive plans as two case studies to illustrate the ways in which local governments can protect water quality and water quantity in land use planning.

Commentators have noted that “[t]here is a need for a concept of “wet growth”: integration of concerns about water quality and the availability of water supply into the density, form, pattern, and location of land development” (Arnold, 2005). However, implementation “this merger of water law and planning” has not been widespread (Wolf 2006).

Richardson’s paper examines the impact of a recent Washington Supreme Court decision on local government water resource planning in that state. A recent Maryland law introduces a Water Resources Element in local comprehensive plans. The implementation of this element is examined.

The lessons learned in Maryland and Washington, as well as in similar efforts throughout the United States and in other countries can be used to assist communities in West Virginia that wish to ensure sufficient quality and quantities of water for drinking water, recreation, and other purposes. One of the main missions of the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic at West Virginia University’s College of Law is to help local governments, landowners and non-profit organizations develop land use strategies to ensure the quality and quantity of waters in the state.