An American Bar Association panel about federal management of regional water resources took added significance during a conference in drought-threatened Las Vegas.
A water rights lawyer from California and a University of New Mexico law professor adopted opposite positions for a Thursday point-counterpoint about whether one size fits all in a region with crucial waterways like the Colorado River serving seven states and Mexico.
Attorney David Aladjem, from Sacramento, compared the federal government to marriage counselor, with no real management or regulatory authority.
Professor Reed Benson said states need a gorilla in the room, and federal money, to reach agreements.
The debate is more than academic in the parched West, where authorities warn that water demand may in coming years outstrip supply in a region home to 40 million people.
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