Peter Sugia: Groundwater belongs to us all

May 27, 2014 

In the context of our current drought and efforts to address decreasing groundwater levels, I am disappointed that some landowners are reluctant to embrace a crucial paradigm shift. In the interest of maintaining current usage, some don’t want their pumps monitored. From a short-term perspective, based on minimizing cost and maximizing withdrawal, that is understandable. However, research suggests water levels are dropping; public records indicate a significant number of new well permits have been issued, and it is clear the current policy is not sustainable.

Overdrafting increases pumping costs to others when wells go dry. Subsidence decreases the future capacity of aquifers; surface water is depleted when there is a shortage of groundwater, and the cost of treating groundwater near the bottom of an aquifer is expensive. We need comprehensive groundwater reform that is based on long-term costs, benefits and sustainability.

Landowners no more own the water beneath them than the sky above. The only responsible model for reform is one based on sustainability and stewardship. It is our responsibility to leave an adequate supply of clean water for future generations. If a moratorium would result in burdensome legal challenges, then the permitting process needs to be more stringent. This is not an issue of property rights. It’s about the prudent use and preservation of a resource more essential than oil.

PETER SUGIA

Hughson

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