Online sessions begin April 29, 2024. ENROLL NOW! Call 1-800-522-7737, email [email protected] or click here to contact us.

Online sessions begin April 29, 2024. ENROLL NOW! Call 1-800-522-7737, email [email protected] or click here to contact us.

About This Course

This intensive class is designed to give students an appreciation of the importance of allocation of water resources in the American West. Participants will learn of the common law and civil law approaches to the distribution of water in arid regions, the transportation of water from one basin to another, and a hierarchy of competing uses for the water. Water was first viewed as an instrumentality of transportation (and the main impetus behind junking the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution), later as power for industry, irrigation for agriculture, and the water resource behind the growth of cities of the American west. Las Vegas and Phoenix, for example, would have been mere refueling stations on the transcontinental railroads were it not for massive water projects to make the desert bloom. Special emphasis will be given to Colorado’s unique system of water courts and water judges. Although this course is concerned with US water law, the student will also recognize the importance of the free flow of water between the US and its continental neighbors, Canada and Mexico.

Course Objectives

Participants will demonstrate the following skills through successful completion of all required coursework and assignments:

  • Explain how water law has influenced the growth of the west
  • Explain the differences between the prior appropriation doctrine and the riparian doctrine
  • Identify rights conveyed and limits to riparian ownership
  • Examine the role of water transportation and its effect on American water law.
  • Explain the elements of valid appropriation
  • Discuss proper groundwater allocation
  • Explain how rain water affects allocation of water
  • Identify the types of water rights granted through the Prior Appropriation Doctrine
  • Discuss how water rights are conveyed to another
  • Identify remedies for landlocked land owners to access appropriated water
  • Discuss how appropriated water be transferred from one basin to another
  • Discuss how hybrid states combine the features of riparian and prior appropriation systems
  • Explain how the right to use surface water differs from the right to appropriate water
  • Discuss the different definitions of navigability in state and federal law
  • Discuss regulation of mining aquifers
  • Identify legal uses of diffused water
  • Explain conjunctive use
  • Identify environmental laws enforced against users of river water
  • Discuss Native American water rights and how they differ from state and federal law


This is an accelerated course. You will be expected to spend an average of at least 8 hours per week reading and completing assignments. Please note that extensions will not be granted for this online course. This course is the equivalent of at least 45 clock hours of study. 70% is the minimum passing score on all exams and assignments for this course.

Course Books

Required textbooks for this course:

  • Water Law in a Nutshell, most recent Edition, West Publishing Company. This book is available from CLS by BARBRI. Order Now Online

Highly Recommended Legal Resources:

  • Oran’s Dictionary of the Law, 4th Edition, by Daniel Oran. Clifton Park: Delmar Cengage Learning

For more information, call CLS by BARBRI at 800-522-7737, or visit our Online Store to order.

Reading Assignments for Lesson Topics:

Lesson One: Introduction to Water Law
Read Chapter 1 in Water Law in a Nutshell (Nutshell)

Lesson Two: Riparian Water Rights
Read Chapter 2 in Nutshell

Lesson Three: The Doctrine of Prior Appropriation
Read Chapter 3 in a Nutshell

Lesson Four: States with Hybrid Water Legislation
Read Chapters 4 & 7 in Nutshell

Lesson Five: Groundwater and Diffused Surface Waters
Read Chapters 5 & 6 in Nutshell

Lesson Six: Governmental Regulation of Water Rights
Read Chapters 8, 9, & 10 in Nutshell

Writing Assignments:

For each lesson you will submit a 50-point writing assignment covering the topics in that lesson’s reading consisting of a variety of short answer questions and essay questions.


You will complete two exams. Each is worth 100 points. The Midterm exam is to be submitted with your Lesson Three Assignments; the Final exam is to be submitted with your Lesson Six Assignments.

Bulletin Board Assignments:

You will also post your responses to six class participation assignments each worth 10 points. These assignments are referred to as Bulletin Board Submissions.

All lesson objectives, assignments, and exams can be found in the Lesson Materials.


Your grade will be based on your completion of six writing assignments, two exams, and class participation/Bulletin Board Submissions. The exams and writing assignments can be accessed from within the lesson material, or by selecting ‘Assignments’ under Activities. You will have the opportunity to engage in “class participation” by using the Bulletin Board tool to respond to the bulletin board assignments throughout the course. Also, participating in the bulletin board assignments will enhance your understanding of the reading material.

Your final grade will be figured as follows:

  • The six writing assignments comprise 60% of your grade.
  • The two exams comprise 30% of your grade.
  • Your participation in class participation assignments comprises 10% of your grade.

Withdrawal Policy

Students may drop the course with a full tuition refund less a non-refundable $50 administrative fee if written notice is sent to CLS by BARBRI by email at [email protected] by the Wednesday before class begins. Students may drop the course with a 50% tuition refund if written notice is sent to CLS by BARBRI by email at [email protected] anytime from the Thursday before the course begins until the first Thursday of class. After the first Thursday of class, no refunds will be issued.

Please NOTE: If you registered for a CLS course directly with the college or university, you are subject to the school’s refund/drop policies.