Here in New Mexico, groundwater is regulated – sort of. If you’re a big municipality that pumps a lot, for example, you can be required to buy up surface water rights to replace the water that inevitably seeps from the rivers down to replace that which you have pumped. It’s not really regulating groundwater directly, but it helps.
In California, not so much, as Felicity Barranger reports in the New York Times today:
If he lived in almost any other state in the arid Southwest, Mr. Watte could be required to report his withdrawals of groundwater or even reduce them. But to California’s farmers and developers, that is anathema. “I don’t want the government to come in and dictate to us, ‘This is all the water you can use on your own land,’ ” said Mr. Watte, 57. “We would resist that to our dying day.”
Although California has been a pathbreaker in some environmental arenas, like embracing renewable energy and recycling, groundwater rights remain sacrosanct. But the state government is facing growing pressure to embrace regulation.