Legal Regimes for Groundwater Regulation: Effectively Managing an Increasingly Crucial Resource
Best Best & Krieger
As surface water supplies dwindle, groundwater is becoming an increasingly important resource. Furthermore, given the cost and environmental impacts of building surface water storage facilities, groundwater basins have become crucial for water storage. Many jurisdictions have legal regimes governing groundwater use. California is almost alone among in the western United States in having no statewide regulation of groundwater use. Without a statewide permitting system regulation is left to ad hoc agreements, special legislation or lengthy and expensive litigation involving all water users in a basin. Currently only 24 out of over 400 groundwater basins have been adjudicated in California through litigation and very few are governed by special legislation. This presentation will compare different legal regimes governing groundwater and discuss the challenges faced by municipal and agricultural groundwater users that rely on unregulated groundwater basins. It will also discuss the difficulty of regulating uses after the waters of a basin are being fully utilized. The presentation will also discuss the increasing importance of groundwater management, including groundwater banking, in light of limits on current and future surface water supplies and environmental restrictions. Finally, the presentation will address the difficulties associated with the intersection of agriculture and municipal uses of groundwater.