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Professor James Salzman has written a wonderful article, which promises an equally wonderful book. His article intelligently and thoughtfully examines the forces that compete, conflict, and combine in the creation of laws relating to drinking water. These include, of course, the physical characteristics of the resource itself and how the resource relates to essential biological needs of humankind. But as Professor Salzman demonstrates, the biological role is only one of several perspectives on drinking water relevant to the kind of legal rules that apply to it. The article describes drinking water as a cultural resource, a social resource, and an economic resource, contending that one has to consider each of these various "natures" of a natural resource to determine how best to fashion legal rules governing its management. The article readily reminds us how much human history and culture relates to natural resources law. For the purposes of this commentary, however, I would like to expand on two reactions I had to the article. The first is that the article's narrow focus on one use of water undermines some of the article's conclusions by understating water's complexity. And the second is why the article made me think about dirt, and ultimately about mud, and the juxtaposition of water and dirt in natural resources law.


Reprinted by permission of The Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Vol. 18, p.S134-S140.

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18 Yale J.L. & Human. S134-S140 (2006)