Meet the Member (June 2024)

Gabriel Eckstein

Professor Gabriel Eckstein

Gabriel Eckstein, Professor of Law, Director of the Energy, Environmental, & Natural Resource Systems Law Program, and Director of the Environmental & Natural Resource Systems Law Clinic at Texas A&M University School of Law, Fort Worth, TX, USA

Left: Prof. Eckstein and his father hiking in the Tatra Mountains near Zakopane, Poland in spring 1990.

General Background:

Gabriel Eckstein focuses his research and teaching on water, natural resources, and environmental law and policy at the local, national, and international levels. He has published six books, most recently Identifying International Legal Trends for Managing Transboundary Groundwater Resources (The Groundwater Project, 2024), and is the editor of the forthcoming Cooperating Over Shared Freshwater Resources Using International Law (World Scientific Publishers, 2024).  Among his more than fifty articles and book chapters, his forthcoming piece on Who Owns the Heat? Property Rights in Geothermal Energy will appear in the University of Illinois Law Review in 2025.  Between 2017-2022, Gabriel represented Bolivia against Chile before the International Court of Justice in the Dispute over the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala.  He currently chairs the Executive Council of the International Association for Water Law, and previously served as President of the International Water Resources Association.  At Texas A&M University, Gabriel also serves on the Graduate Faculty for the Water Management & Hydrological Science program, and as Associated Professor with the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Faculty Fellow with the Center for Health Systems & Design, College of Architecture, and Affiliated Faculty with the Energy Institute.  Eckstein holds an LL.M. in International Environmental Law, a Juris Doctor in Law, an M.S. in International Affairs, and a B.A. in Geology.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about my students’ success. I strive to give them opportunities not only to learn, but also gain practical experience.  Thus, in each of my classes, I incorporate practicums and hypotheticals based on real examples to give them the chance to test their legal knowledge, as well as advocacy and negotiation skills.  I also run clinic and capstone courses in which students work with a real client on a real-world problem.  Over the years, my students have worked with various governmental and non-governmental agencies, a foreign ministry, and a private property owner on various issues involving land use and environmental regulations, flood management and planning, water rights, endangered species, hazardous waste, and other topics.  In addition, I firmly believe that for many students, success is tied to their ability to write.  Thus, I push my students to publish their seminar and law review papers, and often invite students to co-author on my various projects.  To date, I have worked with more than 50 students and early career professionals to publish their work in journals, books, and other professional publications.

What are you working on these days?

I am currently working on a number of projects. First, I am continuing to explore my growing interest in geothermal energy resources and how they are owned, managed, and regulated. While geothermal energy is not a new resource, it has received little attention in practice, among governments and regulatory agencies, and in the literature.  I find it fascinating that so much energy is available beneath our feet, but that so little has been done to regulate and encourage the sector.  But, it seems that change is on the way.  In addition, I am working with students and another colleague on a project exploring groundwater quantity regulation across the U.S.  We are in the process of surveying each state’s groundwater legal regime and eventually plan to develop cross-state comparisons on issues of ownership, allocation and permitting, regulatory approach, and other aspects.  This project has spurred a companion project with the International Association for Water Law where I am leading a team of experts from around the world to prepare similar comparisons across various countries.  We are piloting the project with an initial study on groundwater ownership in ten jurisdictions.  If this pilot develops as we hope, we plan to expand the scope of the project to other groundwater regulatory topics and jurisdictions next year.  Finally, I am working with a number of colleagues to review the reports of Special Masters appointed by the US Supreme Court in interstate water disputes.  The objective is to explore the influence that Special Master and their reports have had on Supreme Court decisions in these cases, as well as on subsequent interstate water disputes.

What brings you to PLPR?

Much of my research has revolved around property rights and ownership (both public and private) and the use of natural resources (in the domestic and international transboundary context).  As a result, I have crossed paths with PLPR members on a number of occasions, though, until recently, have not looked into the organization.  As more colleagues referenced the Association and its meetings, I began to realize the opportunity available with PLPR.  I am excited to engage with the many members from around the world and look forward to learning from these experts and professionals.

Anecdote: things we don’t know about you?

I am indebted to my hydrogeologist father, Prof./Dr. Yoram Eckstein, for so much of my career interests and development; we co-authored a number of publications that integrated the science of groundwater with law and policy.  Also, I am a fairly avid swimmer and try to swim every day, and I love science fiction (though, I have not had time to read for pleasure in recent years).