Category Archives: 2021-2022 Water Resources Protection Topic

Burden of Rejoinder, Episode 3: Analyzing The Water Resources Protection Topic (So Far)

After providing a brief update about the 2022-2023 topic selection process, co-hosts Bill Batterman and Brian Manuel spend most of this episode discussing the water resources protection topic. What are their major takeaways? What trends have they identified? How do they expect the topic to develop during the rest of the season? They analyze the survey of the elimination rounds at St. Mark’s and offer suggestions for students and coaches as they prepare for the next wave of tournaments.

You can subscribe to Burden of Rejoinder in your favorite podcast application. New episodes will be released approximately twice per month. To ask a question or to suggest an episode topic, email

As noted in the outro, Bill and Brian are especially interested in hearing from coaches who have recently attended an in-person debate tournament. If you’re interested in sharing your perspective, please send an email and they’ll use it to help prepare for a future episode about the return of in-person debate.

A Survey of the Elimination Rounds at the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational

How is the water resources protection topic going? Is it a good topic? What are the most common affirmative and negative arguments? What affirmative and negative strategies have been most successful? By late October, we can start to answer these questions with more confidence.

To help figure out the answers, I like to survey the elimination rounds at major national circuit tournaments. Doing so can reveal helpful information about how the topic is being interpreted, which (if any) affirmative cases are most common, which negative arguments are most popular, and whether there is a significant affirmative or negative side bias.

For each elimination round, my review includes the 1AC (plan text and advantage names), a list of 1NC off-case arguments (including a numerical breakdown by argument type), and the argument(s) extended in the 2NR. The process of compiling this information helps me get a better sense of what happened at the tournament because it forces me to review all of the elimination round speech documents. Doing so helps me identify information that will be helpful when preparing for future tournaments: argument trends, common arguments, unique/new arguments, teams’ tendencies, evidence to reproduce, holes in our preparation, etc. The process is time consuming, but I think it is time well spent.

In this post, I will share my survey of the elimination rounds at the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational. You are encouraged to repeat this process on your own for other major tournaments and for tournaments in your region/circuit.

For now, I won’t share any conclusions; I’ll save that for a future post or podcast episode.

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Burden of Rejoinder, Bonus Episode: Topicality on the Water Resources Protection Topic

In this short bonus episode of The 3NR’s new podcast, Bill Batterman and Brian Manuel discuss their early thoughts about topicality on this year’s water resources protection topic. Does “protection” provide a meaningful limit? How can the resolution be interpreted to exclude “effects topical” cases? We’ll revisit these and other topicality questions in the future, but we wanted to share our early impressions after the first few regular season tournaments.

This episode was recorded during the same session that we recorded episode one. Our second full-length episode will be shared soon. You should now be able to subscribe to Burden of Rejoinder in your favorite podcast application. If we missed a podcast directory or if you would like to suggest an episode topic, send us an email at

Recommended Podcast Episode: Bracewell Environmental Law Monitor on WOTUS

Podcasts are an excellent educational resource for debaters. I will occasionally recommend specific episodes that debaters might find particularly helpful.

I recently wrote about the Arizona District Court’s WOTUS decision and what it means for the water resources protection topic. Students looking for a deeper dive into the subject should check out two recent episodes of the Bracewell Environmental Law Monitor podcast. The first (from September 15th) is a very wonky discussion of WOTUS, its history, its current status, and its future. It is a conversation between three Bracewell attorneys: Daniel Pope, Ann Navaro, and Brittany Pemberton. Its target audience is lawyers and other professionals in industries affected by WOTUS, but I think debaters will appreciate its depth.

The second episode is a five minute update from later that day. In it, Pope explains the EPA’s announcement that it will no longer be enforcing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. At the time the earlier episode was recorded, this had not yet been determined.

The Arizona District Court’s WOTUS Ruling and What It Means For The Water Resources Protection Debate Topic

A few weeks ago, you probably saw headlines like “Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Rule Governing Water Pollution” (in the New York Times), “Federal judge throws out Trump administration rule allowing the draining and filling of streams, marshes and wetlands” (in the Washington Post), “Judge Ditches Trump’s Dirty Water Rule” (from Earthjustice), and “Ruling Threatens Progress Made in Clean Water Efforts” (from the American Farm Bureau Federation).

I think most debaters immediately recognized that this was an important development, but figuring out exactly what happened and what it means for the high school debate topic has been very confusing. A Colorado Politics headline put it best: “Waters of the US: just what the heck is going on?“.

Below the fold, I will attempt to explain the District Court’s decision, the background information you need to know to understand it, and how it will affect affirmative and negative arguments on this year’s water resources protection topic.

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Recommended Podcast Episode: Ray Levy Uyeda on California’s Water Futures Index and Water Commodification

Podcasts are an excellent educational resource for debaters. I will occasionally recommend specific episodes that debaters might find particularly helpful.

This Is Hell! is a long-running radio show and podcast that is frequently useful for debaters. In this episode, host Chuck Mertz interviews freelance writer Ray Levy Uyeda about “A Bleak Future for Water,” an article she wrote for The Baffler. Uyeda begins by describing California’s water futures index and explains how the concept of commodity futures trading is now likely to be increasingly applied to water. She then unpacks the many serious implications of the commodification of water on agriculture, water access, the right to water, inequality, and poverty. Students preparing to debate the water resources protection topic should find this interview useful as they prepare arguments about resourcism, capitalism, and water rights and water protector activism. (Note: There is a second segment of this episode about the failure of the Texas electrical grid and how neoliberal politicians responded to it. It is unrelated to the water commodification interview.)

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Cheshier on Effects Topicality

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives is a series highlighting “old” debate theory articles that are particularly thought-provoking, influential, or illuminating and that active debate students would benefit from reading.

In this installment of the series, I am sharing David Cheshier’s 1999 Rostrum article about effects topicality. Cheshier’s monthly columns in Rostrum were an excellent resource for debaters in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they addressed many of the most important theoretical controversies of the era. While some columns feel a bit dated in 2021, many are as relevant as ever. This one is a good example — especially for students preparing to debate the 2021-2022 water resources protection topic.

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Topicality “Protection,” the Oregon Statewide Planning Goals, and the Legal Fight Over the Bradwood LNG Terminal

The fate of the 2021-2022 high school policy debate resolution likely hinges on the definition of the word “protection.” If it is defined narrowly, the topic has the potential to be much better than skeptics (and fans of the runner-up Russia topic) had initially assumed. If it is defined broadly, this season will be a frustrating slog. Unless “protection” establishes a meaningful limit on topical plan mechanisms, students will struggle to research and prepare for all of the many, disparate policy proposals that could, by effect, “protect” water resources.

One of the most promising topicality interpretations of “protection” is based on a protracted legal battle in Oregon over the construction of an LNG terminal. It defines “protection” of water resources as policies that “save or shield [them] from loss, destruction, or injury or for future intended use.” There’s a lot more to it, but this is a limiting interpretation that could, if it prevails, keep the water resources topic relatively manageable.

To understand this evidence, it is important to understand the context of the legal fight over the Bradwood terminal. This requires more background information than one might initially realize. In this article, I will share what I have learned about the Bradwood terminal, the Oregon Statewide Planning Goals, and the decisions of Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals and Court of Appeals. This is wonky stuff, but I think it is important for students to understand it. And at the end, I’ll share some A+ topicality cards.

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