Writing in the Sacramento Bee, Newsha Ajami of the Pacific Institute and groundwater guru John Bredehoeft ask, in relation to the proposed Cadiz aquifer pump-and-sell project in the Mojave Desert, who owns the groundwater?
The company plans to extract 2.5 million acre-feet of the water, a public good, over the next 50 years and sell it back to the public at a profit.
The proposal, they write, suggests an open public policy question in California begging for some attention:
We question that mining groundwater for short-term private gain is what an informed public would like to do with precious groundwater stored in the desert. The fact that the decision is left to San Bernardino County indicates the broader need for clear state policy to manage groundwater resources and a revision of groundwater laws.
Should it be a state decision, a watershed wide decision or a national decision?
Since water enters the ground water slowly, should ownership be related to who owned the water when it hit the ground?
Should a person be able to drill a big hole in the ground so that rain goes down the hole and the owner of the ground water now owns the rain?
Do possible future residents of an area have current property rights to a public good?
This issue is complex.