Volume 32, Issue Supplement, 2007
Ethics and the Life Sciences
Gerald J. Kauffman
Perspectives on Ethics and Water Policy in Delaware
Water is a finite resource held in common by the community yet coveted by individuals and special interests. The water management field is filled with disputes about water allocation, rights, and pollution. Environmental ethics is a basis for equitable water policy making in Delaware. The resource allocation dilemma is examined in relation to conflicting objectives imposed by a market economy between individual self-interests and community environmental well being. Two forms of water law are practiced in the USA—eastern riparian
rights and western prior appropriation. Both forms seek an ethical balance to resolve conflicts and protect individual water rights while protecting downstream users (the common good). Delaware Valley case studies discuss how environmental ethics can help the water policy specialist make difficult decisions during conflicts. Surveys polls indicate that 81 percent have values supportive of a balance between the economy and environment, or pro-environment, indicating that an environmental ethic is central to decisions concerning water policy.