Document Details

We Don’t Do Groundwater: A Morsel of California Legal History

Joseph L. Sax, | January 1, 2002
Summary

It must seem surprising to people elsewhere that California, unlike other western states, continues to treat surface water and groundwater under separate and distinct legal regimes, even though everyone today acknowledges that water comprises a continuum through which the water moves wherever gravity takes it.  Moreover, whatever “mystery” there once was about the movement of water underground, and that induced lawmakers and treatise writers to eschew efforts to regulate groundwater, is no longer a hindrance to modern management, as most states have acknowledged. What, then, explains California’s failure to bring its water law into line with contemporary knowledge, and with scientific reality? The answer (actually there are two answers) is not very mysterious.

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It must seem surprising to people elsewhere that California, unlike other western states, continues to treat surface water and groundwater under separate and distinct legal regimes, even though everyone today acknowledges that water comprises a continuum through which the water moves wherever gravity takes it.  Moreover, whatever “mystery” there once was about the movement of water underground, and that induced lawmakers and treatise writers to eschew efforts to regulate groundwater, is no longer a hindrance to modern management, as most states have acknowledged. What, then, explains California’s failure to bring its water law into line with contemporary knowledge, and with scientific reality? The answer (actually there are two answers) is not very mysterious.

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We-Dont-Do-Groundwater_-A-Morsel-of-California-Legal-History

Keywords:

Groundwater Exchange, history, water rights