If one allows mining of a nonrenewable source, it is disingenuous to argue that the source should never be polluted if the economic activity causing the pollution is necessary to sustain employment. Suppose that two individuals proposed to extract water from a nonrenewable aquifer. The first agreed he would farm and by doing so dry up the aquifer. This use would generate 100 jobs over 45 years. Suppose the latter agreed he would utilize the water for industrial purposes, consume none of it, and reinject it into the ground after he was done. This use of the water would generate 4,500 jobs over 45 years. When reinjected into the aquifer, however, the water would be mildly toxic and, given current technology, unusable for other purposes. In which case is the public welfare best served? The debate over nondegradation versus measured rates of degradation rages on….
From DuMars and Minnis, New Mexico Water Law: Determining Public Welfare Values in Water Rights Allocation, 31 Ariz. L. Rev. 817 (1989).