Joseph W. Dellapenna

Professor of Law


    Professor Dellapenna's scholarly interests focus on water management and on international and comparative law. His books include: Waters and Water Rights (2013) (co-author); The Evolution of the Law and Politics of Water (2009) (editor and contributor); Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History (2006); Interstate Water Allocation in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia: New Issues, New Methods, New Models (2006) (co-author); Suing Foreign Governments and Their Corporations (2nd ed. 2002; 1st ed. 1988); Water Rights in the Eastern United States (1998) (co-author); Natural Resources Law Manual (1997) (co-author); and Abortion and the Constitution (1987) (co-author); and Water in the Middle East: Conflict or Coopation (1984) (co-author). Waters and Water Rights is the standard reference work on water law in the United States. Professor Dellapenna also has written many scholarly articles on a broad range of constitutional, environmental and international subjects, and he has made public presentations at numerous national and international meetings.

Professor Dellapenna has taught and held positions at several universities both here and abroad. He is the only person ever to be a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Law in both the People's Republic of China (at Jilin University, 1987-88) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) (at National Chengchi University, 1978-79). He was also a Fulbright Senior Researcher in Law at the Directory-General of Natural Resources, Republic of Portugal (1990). Professor Dellapenna has lectured widely at other foreign universities, and was previously a member of the faculty at Willamette University College of Law and at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He has been a member of the faculty at Villanova University since 1976.

Professor Dellapenna was the Rapporteur for the Water Resources Committee of the International Law Association and led the drafting of the Berlin Rules on Water Resources (2004) to replace the Helsinki Rules on the Uses of International Rivers. He has been an active member since 1992 of the Task Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for drafting two Model Water Codes and chaired the working group that drafted the Regulated Riparian Model Water Code. He ascended in 1995 to the chair of the Water Regulatory Standards Committee of ASCE to direct completion of two Model Water Codes and the follow up standards, and also supervised the working group that drafted the Standard Guidelines on Shared Use of Transboundary Waters. He has also represented persons and groups in water litigation and consulted with governmental and private bodies on drafting water laws and regulations.

Professor Dellapenna is also an expert on transitional litigation in the United States, and has worked as attorney, consultant, and expert witness in many such cases. His book, Suing Foreign Governments and Their Corporations has been described by one book reviewer as the “bible” for litigation under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. The book was cited by both Justice Souter (writing for the majority) and Justice Stevens (writing in dissent) in Saudi Arabia v. Nelson, 507 U.S. 349 (1993) as authoritative for the inter­pretation of the Act. A second edition of this book was published in 2002. In addition, he has chaired the Committee on International Litigation from 1993-1995, the Committee on Chinese Law from 1995-1999, and the Committee on International Environmental Law (2006-2009), all under the aegis of the Section of International Law and Practice of the American Bar Association. He has also been the chair of the Law of the Pacific Region Interest Group of the American Society of International Law (1993-2002).

Professor Dellapenna has served as consultant to numerous private parties and foreign governments, including to the World Bank, the Water Sector of the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change of the United States Government, to the Water Commission of the World Humanities Action Trust, Joint Management of Shared Aquifers Project of the Palestine Consultancy Group and of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Amar Foundation, the Associates for Middle East Research, Inc., the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China. Among the honors he has received, he is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation.

Practice Experience

  • Director of the Legal and Institutional Feasibility Study for the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project for the World Bank (2009-2012)
  • Director of the Model Water Code Project of the American Society of Civil Engineers (1995 to present)
  • Rapporteur of the Water Resources Law Committee of the International Law Association (1997-2004)
  • Attorney to the Connecticut Water Works Association (2000-2001)
  • Consultant to the Amar Foundation (2000 to present)
  • Attorney to the family of Raoul Wallenberg (1984-1990)

Professor Joseph W. Dellapenna

Office: Rm 327, Law School Building
Phone: 610-519-7075
Fax: 610-519-6282


Courses and Seminars

  • Admiralty
  • Chinese Law
  • Comparative Law
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Contracts
  • Managing the Water Environment
  • Sales
  • Transnational Litigation


LL.M., Columbia University School of Law (1974)
Charles Evans Hughes Scholar; Ford Foundation Fellow

LL.M. in Public International and Comparative Law,
National Law Center, George Washington University (1969)

J.D. cum laude, Detroit College of Law (1968)
Michigan Consolidated Gas Scholar

B.B.A. with distinction, University of Michigan (1965)
Regents Scholar