One of Alabama Water Institute’s foremost experts on water policy and law, Bennett Bearden is an associate research professor (adjunct) at The University of Alabama and special assistant to the state geologist. His experience spans more than 30 years in geosciences, law and policy in private practice, government and academia. He has spent more than 20 years devoted to water law, policy and science.
Bearden’s interest in water law and policy comes from observing water conflict and competition throughout the southeastern United States. One example is the “Tri-State Water Wars,” which has put Alabama, Georgia and Florida at odds over water allocation for decades.
“Interstate and intrastate conflict has given rise to classic water wars, exacerbating potential water quantity and quality problems, increasing uncertainty about water availability and replicating the legal dynamics played out in international water conflicts,” he said.
Bearden has published several works about water law and policy and is currently working on others, including “Cases and Materials on Water Law, Tenth Edition,” the second and third year of “Bridging Troubled Waters: Comparative Water Law and Policy of Mississippi and Alabama” and the second year of “Policy and Economic Analyses of Statewide Water Resources Assessments.” He is collaborating with AWI; the Center for Business and Economic Research, Environmental Institute; Environmental Quality Institute; Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering; Department of Geography; College of Continuing Studies; and the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law. These projects help leverage the expertise and resources from around campus to help UA and AWI become a local, state, national and international leader in water resources research, teaching, extension and outreach.
Bearden also serves as the associate editor for Water Policy, the official journal of the World Water Council and the premier peer-reviewed publication about the subject. According to Bearden, this helps keep AWI on the cutting edge of information about current and relevant water policy and law research.
“Good science and engineering are meaningless if you cannot translate them into policy, public benefits and good and resiliency,” he said.
Bearden received his B.S. in geography, B.S. in geology and M.S. in geology degrees from The University of Alabama. He received his J.D. from Birmingham School of Law and his LL.M. in commercial and corporate law from the University of London. He also earned a post-graduate certificate in watershed management from the University of British Columbia. He earned his doctorate in water law and policy at McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific.
Bearden is a member of the Alabama State Bar, Washington D.C. Bar and is admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales. He is also a member of the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources Water Resources Committee, the Alabama Section of the American Water Resources Association, the organizing and planning committee of the annual Alabama Water Resources Conference and the International Water Association, He is a former member of the executive committee of the Environmental Section of the Alabama State Bar.