Drew Kershen Named Oklahoma Water Pioneer

December 7, 2023

Professor Drew Kershen was recently recognized as one of 2023 Oklahoma Water Pioneers by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB).

Drew KershenProfessor Kershen was a faculty member of the University of Oklahoma College of Law for 41 and a half years until retiring in 2012. At the beginning of his career, he convinced the OU Curriculum Committee to add an agricultural law course. In 1989, Professor Kershen expanded his agricultural law program and began teaching water law, recognizing that agriculture law and water law are inextricably connected.   

In 1994, Professor Kershen gave an eye-opening presentation at the Governor's Water Conference on agribusiness and environmental concerns, introducing the audience to the terms "sod buster" and "swamp buster" to describe federal environmental laws and regulations that would later trigger much concern from the agriculture industry. These early environmental laws and regulations ultimately led to the federal "WOTUS" (Waters of the United States) controversies and whether and to what extent activities in wetlands should be regulated.   

Professor Kershen was later selected to join the Water Law Advisory Committee, a multi-sector advisory group that provided perspective to the OWRB regarding proposed state legislation and rules. Professor Kershen was particularly insightful about legislation drafted in 1993 to address the uncertainty in stream water rights posed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision in the Franco-American Charolaise case and the recognition of riparian rights to reasonable use within the prior appropriation system.   

Since retiring from OU Law, Professor Kershen has continued to give presentations at conferences, speaking passionately about the benefits of biotechnology to improve crop production and yields through improved drought tolerance and pest resistance.   

He recently provided an academic review on the history and evolution of the fundamental statutes and case law that govern groundwater and stream water in a manner that has affected or could affect Oklahoma Reclamation projects. His work on the project will inform water management for decades to come.   

Professor Kershen received the American Agricultural Law Association Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and the Excellence in Agricultural Law for Academia Award in 2017. The OWRB recognized Professor Kershen for a career devoted to developing and defining laws that govern fair appropriation of water and serving as an invaluable resource for guidance in countless water law cases and studies. 

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