19 August 2008

When a Well is Not a Well

Most place let people pump groundwater from below their land. That idea gets tricky when you live next to a river, the river's overallocated in the middle of a terrible drought, and "well" water is really river water.

Time to change the rules:
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the river in Arizona, Nevada and California, has proposed new rules that target the well owners, who drain as much as 5 billion gallons of water a year from the Colorado.

Most of the well owners are private citizens who have drilled their wells too close to the river. Instead of pumping groundwater, to which landowners have a right, they are drawing water from the river's subsurface flow. Well owners must get approval to siphon water from the river's surface or subsurface.

To comply with the new procedures, well owners can seek an individual water right, join an existing water district or become a customer of a city or other provider with rights to Colorado River water. They could continue to pump water from the well but only within the limits of the water right or provider.
Consider this "change" relative to the current law:
Under Arizona law, a domestic-well owner must obtain a permit but does not have to report how much water is pumped as long as it is less than 35 gallons per minute, or about 50,000 gallons a day.
50,000 gallons/day is about 56 acre-feet/year. That's a lot of water!

Bottom Line: Groundwater rights need to be integrated into the existing system of surface water rights. Otherwise, we are taking Peter's river water and putting it in Paul's well.

ps: Read more about this story at WaterWired.

hattip to DW

1 comment:

  1. I see your Arizona law and raise you Washington's exempt stockwatering provisions. Not only are wells for stockwatering purposes exempt from the permit process, they can withdraw an unlimited amount of water. The exemption has been used to create or expand dairies and similar CAFO's that use as much as half a million gallons of water every day.

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