Legal Rights for Rivers: More Power, Less Protection?

Rivers in New Zealand, India and Colombia received the status of a legal person in 2017. Is this a cause to celebrate? What are the implications for water resource management?

About the speaker
Dr Erin O’Donnell is a water law and policy specialist at University of Melbourne Law School. She has worked in water governance since 2002, in both the private and public sectors. Erin’s research focuses on the challenge of sustainable water resource management, with an emphasis on transferable water rights and water markets. Her work is informed by comparative analysis across Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Chile. Erin’s PhD explored the implications of using a legal person to represent the aquatic environment, with responsibility to hold and manage water rights on behalf of the environment. Her research findings are broadly applicable to the emerging field of legal rights for nature, as well as corporate governance for environmental outcomes, and the use of markets as a form of regulation in other environmental and resource management areas.