10 Sep 2014

It's my well and I can pump if I want to?

In my Reddit AMA, hobbers wrote:
So I was imagining how you would price water when someone has their own well. Sure, it's the same aquifer or whatever. But people will still moan and complain - "it's my land, I can do whatever I want, what gives the government the right, etc". All of which still makes sense, except for the common resource problem. But couldn't you influence their behavior by offering a water market? In a similar way to solar? People can pipe water back into the system at market prices. That sets a cost for them watering their lawn, while not forcing the government to inspect their well or otherwise. When water is abundant, market prices are low, people can water whatever they want. When water is scarce, market prices are high, and people have incentive to not water their lawn, instead piping the water back into the system where use can be prioritized.
I responded with:
I agree with these general outlines. The key for the well example is the degree of "shared" in the aquifer. Assuming it's worth the metering cost, it would be pretty easy to charge a "public goods extraction fee" based on extraction volumes and wellhead depth in a region (averaged over a year). Above average extractors would pay if the level dropped, since they are depleting the common pool resource. "Unconnected" people could do what they way (pay or not) with "their" water, which they have the ability and incentive to protect. (Aquifer science is VERY complex in the field.)


  1. So, how would this work in regards to rain water? "Its my rain, I can capture it if I want to!" Seems like the same principles apply....except the rain capture (use) is being encouraged by recent California legislation and the groundwater capture (use) is being discouraged.

    Just wondering :)

  2. In unconfined aquifers present in hard rock areas, many think as Hobbers has written, but do not they that this is a sheer myopic view. First of all if a person has drilled a well, if s/he says that it is his/her well, does s/he refer to the borewell structure or groundwater or both? You may be surprised to know that in hard rock areas, due to cumulative interference among wells due to violation of isolation distance and other hydrogeological and resource economic factors, probability of initial and premature well failure to yield groundwater is increasing in leaps and bounds which is leading to drastic reduction in life/age of wells. Most of the wells function or yield groundwater for at the most 2 or 3 years or even lesser. Probability of initial failure (ie you drill the well today and you do not get any water itself is around 0.3 to 0.4 in Kolar/Chikkaballapur districts of Karnataka. Hence it is myopic to think that a well belongs to a person.
    Please visit these areas in India so that you can get first hand information regarding well failure!
    mg chandrakanth, Professor of agricultural economics, univ of agri sciences, bangalore, India

  3. @JBD -- rainwater (off your property) is not the same, unless you are in an apartment bldg.

    The key is finding a balance between water rights and property rights, without spending too much time arguing over it!

  4. One thing that the Govt. never takes into consideration when they try to meter wells are the hard costs to the owner of the well. There is drilling and hardware that goes with it(pipe,tanks,pumps,filters,etc) , not to mention maintenance when things go wrong, plus the electricity that is required to run the whole system.

    My well system cost around $25K when all was said and done because the fire department required my whole house to be sprinklered as well which cost another $25K...There needs to be some kind of consideration of my hard costs before ANYONE will even begin to discuss metering my well!

  5. @RB -- good points, but then you either need to (1) repeal fire regulations or (2) decide that it's not "worth" spending all the $ to meet the obligations of using groundwater. California has gone from "wild west" to "most over-regulated state" in many ways; perhaps water policy is catching up (yikes!)

  6. I was comparing groundwater that passes beneath a property (in most cases...on the way to somewhere else... ie; a stream or the next groundwater basin) and rainfall that passes on a property (in most cases>>>>on the way somewhere else...ie to a stream or groundwater).

    With groundwater we're all fretting that too much is taken and gov't is finally starting to discourage/regulate its consumption.

    With rainfall we're all fretting that too much is getting away and gov't is trying to engourage its consumption by the property owners where it happens to fall.

    The downstream water resources are affected (depleated) by either, so what gives??

  7. @JDB -- I don't see it that way. G/W regs are meant to reduce "theft" of Mr A's water by Mr B. Existing S/W regs are aimed at the same thing. Govt has relaxed restrictions on on-site use for homeowners (e.g., rain barrels) b/c the cost > benefit (energy, monitoring, etc.) BUT the biggest move for in situ use/entrapment is where runoff threatened to make flooding worse, i.e., for water ABUNDANCE.

  8. Aquadoc has a related post: http://aquadoc.typepad.com/waterwired/2014/09/drought-.html


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