About DTW

How It Works

Getting Started

Dividing the Waters seeks out judges who have water litigation before them. The “conveners,” judges with experience in water adjudication and who lead the Program invite them to join. Judges may hear about Dividing the Waters through The National Judicial College (NJC), the Federal Judicial Center, or this website. Regardless how you hear about the Program, any judicial officer is welcome to join the network when adjudicating a case related to water. You may contact either Steve Snyder, Dividing the Waters Executive Director, or Joy Lyngar, NJC Provost.

The Process

Dividing the Waters believes that judges can best make these important public resource decisions with the support of other judges who know how to navigate water conflicts. Always adhering to the Canons of Judicial Conduct, the program helps both federal and state judges:

  • Share information about how the different states and courts have structured and conducted stream adjudications and other complex water law litigation.
  • Discuss problems in conducting these adjudications and cases, from legal and logistical to intellectual and political.
  • Learn what works and what does not work, so other judges do not have to make the same mistakes.
  • Benefit from expertise of technical and scientific resource people who are involved in the many subject areas involved in water cases.
  • Build a water knowledge network where judges, masters and referees develop lasting personal and professional relationships.

Dividing the Waters History

Since 1993, Dividing the Waters has provided a network for judicial officers to communicate with each other in a confidential and collegial setting about substantive and procedural case management issues that arise in complex water cases. The Ford Foundation supported the Program’s founding. For more than 20 years, foundations funded the Program, with Hewlett and Bechtel leading the way. Today, the Program seeks to diversify its funding, drawing support from state governments, its Board of Advisors, and regional foundations.

Beginning as a discussion forum on western water right adjudications, the Program has evolved to address the most critical water issues facing judges today – climate change, water quality, endangered species and growing cities. Its 2007 affiliation with the National Judicial College and its interaction with the Federal Judicial Center allow the Program to offer the latest expertise, methods and technologies for state and federal judges assigned to water litigation, to build their understanding of the complex issues in front of them. Dividing the Waters has begun extending its reach across the nation, to regions where water conflicts are relatively new and may benefit from the network’s experience.

Academic Freedom Statement

Dividing the Waters provides a forum for judges to discuss issues in a manner that allows them to best serve the public and the judicial system. In order to encourage open discussion and debate among judges, Dividing the Waters maintains the confidentiality of such discussions, consistent with the Canons of Judicial Ethics and while adhering to The National Judicial College’s Academic Freedom Statement.