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University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law - Summer 2013

places, such as Alabama and Georgia. “It’s not long before they work their way north,” McCaffrey says. At the same time, water users must coordinate with ecosystem needs. Often, complications arise not just from the dearth of water, but the timing of its use, according to Weber. “Fish and water fowl often need water during very specific times. We must minimize our impact on the ecosystem,” which requires integrated water planning and employing the same water for multiple uses. Location, Location, Location Sacramento, the “River City,” is at the forefront—physically and metaphorically—of all of these water law issues. It sits at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers and is where the state and federal engineers operate the dams, pumps and aqueducts that collectively form the world’s largest water supply system. The ecologically important delta—a 1,000-mile maze of channels, sloughs and islands just east of San Francisco Bay—is California’s water crossroads. From there, exporters pump water to Central Valley farms. Home to key state and federal regulators, Sacramento is the capital of California, which blends both appropriative water rights (the predominant system west of the Mississippi) with riparian rights (the system used east of the Mississippi). Pacific McGeorge is not only ideally situated at the epicenter of these water law issues but also the only law school in the country that offers a master’s program focused exclusively on “People want to live where the water isn’t: Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, the Middle East, North Africa. Canada is awash in water, but its population is less than California’s.” —Professor Stephen McCaffrey water resources. It’s not a standard LL.M. program either. Rather than just a collection of academic classes and a thesis, the graduate water law program has been wholly redesigned to ensure that students are “practice-ready,” says Weber, who, along with other program leaders, conducted “listening sessions” with dozens of practicing water lawyers to get suggestions for restructuring the program. An Interdisciplinary Approach Because water law is highly interdisciplinary as well as scientifically and technically complex, attorneys need far more tools than the average practitioner, according to McCaffrey. As a result, Pacific McGeorge water law students are introduced to everything from hydrology, biology, hydrogeology, finance and history, to engineering and economics. The program begins with a yearlong foundations course in which dozens of experts cover these topics. “There’s nothing like this course anywhere in the world,” Weber says. Students also take a yearlong practicum class, focusing on case studies and extended simulations. Students handle client intake and then take a water law matter through every phase up through administrative law proceedings and judicial challenges. In addition, they have a field placement with a private law firm or a nonprofit or a regulatory agency. As a result, students learn to collaborate with many stakeholders, including businesses and developers, farmers and ranchers, nonprofit organizations and public agencies. 24 summer 20 1 3 E D A S M U S Professor Stephen McCaffrey with J.S.D. graduate Maria Milanes-Murcia, ’13


University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law - Summer 2013
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