From the Ground Up: Local Water Legislation that Works

Water is one of the world’s most valuable resources, but where the responsibility lies for its care is decidedly murky.  As Vermont wrestles with water quality legislation and how to fund it, Professor John R. Nolon, founder of Pace University Law School's Land Use Law Center, will discuss the struggle that governments face in regulating water. On Thursday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m. the 15th Annual Norman Williams Lecture will explore the foundation of local water laws at Vermont Law School’s Chase Community Center. The lecture, which is free and open to the public and press, will be streamed live at

“Federal jurisdiction over water is incomplete; the promise of the states’ police power is unfulfilled, and local governments lack the capacity to use their extensive land use authority to protect their citizens,” said Professor Nolan. “If these systems of law were coordinated, the legal system could be as interconnected as the hydrological cycle.”

Professor Nolon’s lecture explores the local foundations of a comprehensive regime of water law, building from the bottom-up to integrate the legal authority and resources of local, state and federal governments.  

“Our streams and rivers in the Upper Valley are intimately connected across jurisdictional boundaries,” said Thomas McHenry, President and Dean of Vermont Law School. “The laws that govern federal waters must complement the strong system of law in our towns and states. I welcome the ideas that John Nolon’s lecture will spark in our students and faculty.”

Professor Nolon's expertise in water law and land use offers a framework in how to untangle a century of uncoordinated laws. The 15th Annual Norman Williams Lecture is free and open to the public.    

The Norman Williams Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Planning and the Law series is named for Norman Williams, who came to Vermont Law School in 1975 after a long and distinguished career in public service and teaching, particularly in the area of land use planning, and who played a key role in founding the Environmental Law Center. The lecture series is a gift of Frances Yates, a longtime VLS supporter and former trustee, in memory of Professor Williams, Charles Yates JD’93, and Anya Yates JD’94.

For more information about the Williams Lecture, visit, or call 802-831-1287.