29 Jun 2011

Bleg -- Bottled water property rights?

DB asks:
I am trying to figure out if bottled water companies are considered overlying owners or appropriators under California groundwater law. I have read that groundwater users that extract water and use it on land they own are overlying owners, but does bottling water for export count as using the water?

I have read unclear accounts that discuss when a bottler extracts from point A and bottles it at point B, and is thus not an overlying owner, but the discussion was in reference to TX, and regardless, I am still unsure if a bottler's physical act of bottling counts as a "use" and thus would also be a overlying owner if they extract and bottle at the source.
My first response is that beneficial use of groundwater ON a property is allowed, even if that water is then exported in bottles. Can you divert it to a distant, non-contiguous property? Doubt it, since this is not a matter of prior appropriation rights.

Any opinions (or, better yet, facts) on this question?


RD said...

The operative question is "beneficial use"

if the water is appropriated for a "beneficial use" that includes human consumption then they "own" it but only so long as they use it.

In Alaska we wrote this into the water export law so that it is clear.

Wes Strickland said...

There are some facts to consider, but in my opinion generally speaking the use would be overlying if the plant is located on site or if the water is placed into trucks on site. Both of those activities "sever" the water from the land, causing the "beneficial use" to be on site. The use would likely be appropriative if piped to another site for bottling or trucking.

Not everyone would agree with that probably, but that is my opinion based on assisting several bottling plants.

Damian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damian said...

Great - that confirms other accounts I read, thanks.

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