Throughout the US the Federal government has up to this point steered clear of getting involved in groundwater rights. Environmentalists and Conservationists hate the idea of individuals and businesses having an unrestricted right to pull as much water out of the ground as they choose. Property rights, thank God, are still sovereign in the US, so if your property has water or minerals under it, they both belong to you.
With rights however, come responsibilities and the environmental/conservation voice has a good deal of validity behind it when it comes to groundwater. Think about this, what if a well-funded individual decided to dig mega-wells and pump out mega-volumes of water, to sell elsewhere? I am talking about pumping out so much water that in 5 years the aquifer in question would be without drinking water. Sounds despicable, even criminal, doesn’t it? Yet, there really is nothing preventing an entrepreneur from doing exactly that.
Do we want the Federal government getting involved to regulate these issues? Hell no! Think about it. If given the authority, the federal government would be able to pump out your water, to ease drought in another part of the nation, especially if that area had been generous to the right political interests.
So what can we do to stop our groundwater from being exploited? The Prince Edward Island Government gives us a peek at the kinds of things that can be done. These folks have a series of requirements, education, permits and fees that must be complied with before the drilling of wells can take place. So, in this case, it isn’t the regulation of water that the government infringes upon, but instead, it is the commercial and technical parameters of the well drillers that face scrutiny. I invite you to noodle around on the website and look into how these folks deal with water.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that this system will protect their groundwater completely, however such a system is a very good first step for it does create a spirit of water awareness and cooperation between water users as the community. One such a relationship, or contract with the public is accepted, the next step might be a sliding scale mandatory fee for monitoring and yearly certification, based on volume pumped out. Being a small-government conservative, this like of thinking is uncomfortable for me, but at the risk of drying out our aquifers, I think this approach warrants looking in to.