In May 2008, the major law firm Hunton & Williams launched the Water Policy Institute (WPI), a think tank-esque, industry-supported consortium formed "to address water supply, quality and use issues," according to its website.
After the initial flurry of press releases, WPI appeared to languish. Then, ten months after its formation, WPI issued its first white paper. "Water Wars: Conflicts Over Shared Waters" (pdf) focuses on two river basins in the Southeastern United States. The paper urges the states involved -- Georgia, Florida and Alabama -- to put aside litigation and work with federal mediators to reach an agreement on water allocation. It also supports further study of seasonal water use, ecological issues and efficiency measures.
The white paper's conclusions seem reasonable, even obvious. So much so that it's unclear why Hunton & Williams felt the need to recruit major public relations and corporate powerhouses when forming WPI -- and what they, and the law firm, get out of the effort.
What is clear is that WPI, Hunton & Williams and their corporate allies have a long history of siding with (or being) polluters and attempting to undermine water quality safeguards. It seems reasonable, therefore, to worry that whatever WPI is up to, it's likely to do more harm than good.