Water Laws: Lessons from Indigenous and Colonial Stewardship (2016-2020)

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council/Real Estate Foundation

Led by Dr. Val Napoleon and Deb Curran, this three-year project is taking place across three British Columbia regions that are currently experiencing water scarcity and crisis. The goal of this project is to facilitate collaborative water stewardship and watershed management across legal traditions. This project brings together three research dimensions:

(1)  a substantive articulation of Tsilhqot’in, Cowichan, and Lower Similkameen laws;

(2)  a description of settler water use and informal water management practices that do not necessarily match formal legislation, but do inform how water users organize, access, share, and allocate water; and

(3)  an analysis of formal state legal processes that govern water, including BC’s new Water Sustainability Act.

These research dimensions will collectively contribute to developing more responsible, effective, and environmentally responsible water stewardship laws and practices. The hope is that these new laws and practices will bring together Indigenous and settler communities and serve as exemplars for other regions in Canada and beyond. Additional projects include the development of an Indigenous water law graphic narrative and accompanying teaching guide.