Many Western states, including California and Texas, regulate groundwater and surface water differently. Yet the two are interconnected because aquifers bleed into rivers and lakes—as several high-profile, ongoing legal cases suggest.
One of the most interesting right now is in Northern California on the Scott River. I’m no expert on this, but it appears that environmentalists are trying to force authorities that oversee the river to also oversee nearby groundwater withdrawals as well. But, as reported by the Siskiyou Daily News, the county fears that a decision for the plaintiffs “will make every request to drill a well subject to an environmental review process.” There’s a hearing on April 11, but any resulting decision will likely be immediately appealed. If anyone has a sense of how wide-ranging the implications could be, by all means leave a comment.
Another case I’m familiar with is in the Texas-New Mexico spat, in which Texas accuses New Mexico farmers of depleting the Rio Grande as it flows into Texas, by (among other things) pumping water from wells near the river. It’s now with the Supreme Court (the lucky arbiter for many inter-state water disputes), and some fiery words have been flying: New Mexico’s attorney general Gary King accused Texas of “trying to rustle New Mexico’s water.” But the US Solicitor General submitted a brief to SCOTUS agreeing with Texas. New Mexico’s pecan farmers, profiled in the New York Times last week, have a lot at stake in this battle because some draw groundwater from near the Rio Grande.
There are other lively intra-Texas tussles over the groundwater-surface water interchange, as the Texas Tribune recently reported.
Moving now to Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes: a lawsuit was filed last year over the falling levels of White Bear Lake, northeast of Minneapolis St Paul. As reported by MNPR’s Ground Level blog, “Homeowners and businesses near the shrunken lake have sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, arguing it should not have been so free with allowing nearby cities to pull water from the ground, thereby sucking water away from the lake.”
So there’s a lot going on in the groundwater-surface water nexus. Other cases of interest, anyone?