DOI: 10.1002/wat2.1684 ISSN:

Revisiting groundwater law through the lenses of earth system law and rights of nature

Gabriela Cuadrado‐Quesada, Elisabeth Lictevout, Susanne Schmeier, Claudia Ruz Vargas
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Oceanography


Current groundwater challenges have made evident that national and international groundwater law needs a thorough revision. In this article, we explore earth system law (ESL) and rights of nature (RoN) as possible approaches to rethink groundwater law. Taking inspiration from ESL scholarship, RoN literature, Indigenous worldviews, and socio‐ecological movements, we analyze law as a critical element of the human‐political‐social system, which creates regulatory institutions with the aim to provide a social order for humanity, an order that is being affected by deteriorating earth systems, including groundwater. Recognizing RoN and thinking law through the lenses of ESL involve a new understanding of what groundwater law could be and what the subject of the law could be. So far, little attention has been given to how these approaches can be used to redesign groundwater law, and what implications this could have on groundwater governance and sustainability. Therefore, this article explores the possibility of reforming groundwater law through the lenses of ESL and RoN. It investigates which legal mechanisms are being used to recognize RoN, and what their legal and practical implications have been so far. This article aims to contribute not only to advancing the academic debate on RoN and ESL but also to share light on different ways to reform groundwater law, which includes a new understanding of sustainability and socio‐nature relations.

This article is categorized under:

Human Water > Rights to Water

Human Water > Water Governance

Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change

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