Free Water!

Who knew California had a source of free water, right under its very nose!

The cheapest source of water is fresh groundwater, which costs only 4 cents per gallon, but it is not always present in local aquifers.

Groundwater tastes just like imported water, uses less electricity to distribute because it is pumped closer to home, and is always in the ground, drought-proof, Garrod said.

But is it really such a good idea?

The growing interest in groundwater concerns the San Diego County Farm Bureau and the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club. Both are worried that overdrafting – the process of extracting groundwater beyond the aquifer’s ability to sustain itself – could affect farmers and wildlife.

But county water authority and Sweetwater Authority officials said no municipality would be foolish enough to deplete its aquifers. (emphasis added)

My experience suggests that, to the contrary, an awful lot of municipalities, agricultural users, and pretty much anyone else with enough money to drill a hole and buy a pump has, in the past, been foolish enough to deplete its aquifers.


  1. Our experience with the Edwards Aquifer under San Antonio, and the Oglalla Aquifer, suggest that a common pool of water, underground, is just like any other commons. That is, somebody will abuse it, and take out way more than they should, depleting the resource, damaging the geological environment, and probably killing of species dependent on the aquifer’s water.

    Is history a guide?

  2. “Drought-proof” indeed. G/w droughts are damped/delayed reflections of surface water droughts. But that difference in behaviour can be leveraged.

    Last line of the article: “We don’t want to pump out more than Mother Nature puts in” – Garrod. So sustainability is being considered. But if there are any g/w-dependent rivers/wetlands/etc, then any pumping at all will eventually reduce their share. A trade-off.

  3. 1) you’re totally right (they will overexploit)
    2) The numbers in the story are off by an order of magniture ore more (4 cents/gal s/b 0.4 cents).

    Silly people, there’s no free lunch!

  4. With Kettleman as an example, I recall the law says that anyone with a prior right to draw water from an aquifer keeps the right to that amount of water only as long as they keep sucking it out. If they stop sucking a given amount of water out of the aquifer they lose the right to resume taking that much.

    So with an aquifer that is
    — for whatever reason (lack of planning, lack of sustained rainfall) now being overdrawn
    — in a loosely consolidated material that collapses when the water is removed

    the law says the users have to cooperate in actions that will destroy the aquifer, to retain their legal right to remove water from the aquifer.

    That is, I think, based on the precedential decision in Farmer v. Goose That Laid Golden Eggs.

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