If you’re a landowner in California in a more rural area, there’s a good chance you rely on well water for your home’s water supply. But do you technically own the groundwater that your well pumps up? You own the well and all the equipment that goes with it, but what about the actual water?
This has been a big issue in California in recent years, especially during times of drought. During years where there is normal precipitation, the surface water found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers is enough to supply about two thirds of the water used throughout the state in a given year. But when there is a particularly dry year or a period of drought, farms and drillers have to rely even more on digging deeper for groundwater. In drought years, groundwater can account for up to half of the total amount of water used in the state.
The way groundwater is managed in the state has historically been an issue handled by city water officials, agricultural gurus and scientists. But California has had some historic periods of drought in recent years, and suddenly it is an issue that all landowners have a stake in.
In 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the first groundwater legislation in the state into law, even after years of resistance from farm lobbies. The bill, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, requires local districts to regularly measure and report information about groundwater amounts in their region. As such, this led to more well metering, an issue that has been controversial among homeowners.
Proponents of the law say it’s irresponsible not to measure how much groundwater is being pumped and reported. Without such a law in place, it’d be impossible to track who is pumping how much water.
Private landowners say the amount of groundwater they use is their business—after all, they own it, they say. But whether or not they really own that groundwater is a matter that is up for some considerable debate.
When you drill down far enough and pump up water, you’re also likely tapping your neighbors’ groundwater from lands in the surrounding area. The drilling activity is not currently illegal, but the potential for it to cause problems is there. Theoretically, one neighbor could dry up another neighbor’s groundwater supply by pumping significantly more. The question that constantly comes up is whether that’s fair or not, as well as whether or not the water is the legal property of any individual landowner.
As climate change continues to cause more problems with water shortages in California, the groundwater debate will continue to become even more prevalent, as the state will need to rely even more on its groundwater stashes for its water usage. More and more people throughout California are drilling and pumping, but it remains to be legislated how much ownership these people have over the water down below.
For more information about groundwater surveying in California, contact the team at National Groundwater Surveyor Inc. today.
From single family home sites to large agricultural wells, call National Groundwater Surveyor at 800-980-7429.
We also provide Groundwater Surveys in Nevada and Oregon!