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Media Release

March 14 2008

UniSA scholar brings the Law on Water to the US

Professor Jennifer McKayUniSA’s water law specialist and Professor of Business Law, Dr Jennifer McKay has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Senior Scholarship at the 2008 Fulbright presentations in Western Australia and will be heading to the US in August to engage with US water policy law.

Prof McKay will take up the scholarship at the Boalt School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, where she will complete a twelve month study into changing current water allocation and use laws in the United States and Australia to incorporate sustainability goals and considerations.

As Director of UniSA’s Centre for Comparative Water Policies and Laws, Prof McKay has already been instrumental in developing a comparative framework for analysing legal institutional aspects of natural resources management in Australia and India. She is also a leading researcher at the Cooperative Research Centres for Water Quality and Treatment and Irrigation Futures, and holds a ministerial appointment on the Natural Resources Management Council.

“The need for a sustainable development law for water is becoming increasingly urgent for both Australia and the US as we grapple with the triple bottom line of economically balancing sustainable water use with environmental protection,” Prof McKay says.

“I will be reviewing state water laws in the West and East of the US and comparing them with the sustainable development laws for water use in Australia. I want to get a broader understanding of the evolving concept of sustainable development law and how that is being defined within the judiciary – so I will be looking at different cases and noting the judges’ views, making comparisons, and I also hope to interview activist judges about their decisions,” she says.

Prof McKay says there is enormous value in comparing water laws, their interpretation and administration in two countries which operate as federations and have similarly mature water economies.

“The water supply issue will provoke controversy for farmers here and in the US when water is removed from the pool of water currently allocated to farmers for consumption, and as urban residents are required to change water use habits. Judges are going to bear the brunt of this anger as they strive to reach sensible and sustainable decisions that promote community acceptance,” Prof McKay says.

Prof McKay hopes her Fulbright Scholar research will have relevance to other federations such as Canada, as well as less mature economies.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Høj says he is delighted to see significant research into sustainability being supported internationally.

“Professor McKay is undertaking important and somewhat pioneering research into the pressing legal issues that surround our resources and how we manage them into the future,” Prof Høj says.

“We are very proud that the calibre and international significance of her research has been acknowledged through the Fulbright Scholarship.”

Prof McKay plans to share her research outcomes with senior water public policy makers and lawyers in Australia and the US through a calendar of professional appointments and presentations; senior membership of international water, law and resources organisations; and through her roles on the editorial boards of international water policy and environmental management journals. She is also considering cases in the European Union on the water framework directive.

The largest educational scholarship of its kind, the prestigious Fulbright program was created by US Senator J William Fulbright and the US Government in 1946 to promote mutual understanding through educational exchange. The program operates between the US and 150 countries.

Prof McKay is one of 24 Australians to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship this year. The scholarships are funded by the Australian and US Governments and corporate partners, and administered by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission in Canberra.

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