UW Presidents Speaker to Examine Elwood Meads Vision for Wyoming Water

February 25, 2013
Man sitting next to pond
UW Law Professor Larry MacDonnell will discuss “Elwood Mead’s Vision for Wyoming Water, Then and Now” Thursday, March 7. (UW Photo)

The contributions and legacy of Wyoming’s first state engineer will be the topic of the University of Wyoming’s President’s Speakers Series talk at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, March 7, in the UW College of Law Building’s Moot courtroom.

UW Law Professor Larry MacDonnell, who has worked on water resources issues for 30 years, will discuss “Elwood Mead’s Vision for Wyoming Water, Then and Now.”

Mead, who was state engineer when Wyoming became a state in 1890, believed that uses of Wyoming’s water should benefit everyone, not just the users. He thought that professional state employees should supervise human uses to better accomplish this objective and that the use should be regarded as a conditional right (a license), not a property right.

“Mead felt that the amount of water used should be limited to that amount determined to be reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose of the use, not necessarily the amount claimed by the user, and that nonuse for as little as two years should result in termination of the right of use,” MacDonnell says.

The presentation will explore the basis of Mead’s beliefs, the degree to which they corresponded or differed with the prevalent views of his time, and the ways in which Wyoming courts and legislatures have subsequently altered Mead’s vision.

Professor MacDonnell's research, writing and speaking focus on water, natural resources and the environment. He is especially interested in ways to make development and use of natural resources more environmentally sustainable. He also has helped to organize and establish community-based watershed protection and restoration groups including the Colorado Watershed Assembly and the Colorado Water Trust.

At UW, he teaches water law, public lands and natural resources, and is the faculty adviser for the Wyoming Law Review.

President Tom Buchanan encourages UW students, faculty and staff to attend the presentation. The President's Speaker Series encourages and honors individual faculty members who have been especially successful in balancing the research, educational and service goals of the university. The series calls attention to some of the individuals who have made important, well-rounded contributions to the university's standing.

A committee composed of the speaker series' previous honorees nominates candidates for the series. Selection criteria include a long-term national recognition for research or creative activity and the ability to communicate with all members of the university community.

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