ByAaron Styles

Apr 4, 2014

When the prize is so valuable, will we do it again?

When the prize is so valuable, will we do it again?

Since I ran the bottled water story a week or two back, I’ve had a few question about who owns the water and what would happen if we ended up with not enough of the good stuff. Never one to shrink away from a difficult question, I thought I would look it up and find out. It appears in short, that one day we will all get hosed, excuse the pun.

We have all seen in the movies, oil magnets like Rockefeller buying up all the land, the railways and the gas stations to gain a monopoly on oil. Sadly, we haven’t learned much from the old Standard Oil days and it appears the rules regarding water ownership could lead to a similar situation once demand exceeds supply. Now, we can all agree that oil being controlled by a few of the most powerful corporations and organizations (OPEC) in the world is not a good thing, but water? I think this could cause more issues and problems than oil ever has in the near future if we are not proactive now and change a few things.

I understand that the Constitution (Okay Declaration of Independence) says “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but perhaps if the founding fathers had thought ahead as to how greedy we would become they would have added water and air to the list, sadly, they didn’t.

So we can all expect in the not so distant future to see the water wars right up there with the oil wars. After all, the rules governing ownership of this vital resource are in essence the same as it is for oil. I think that’s something that should change. If our leaders (well, some of them) feel we should all have access to health care, then water should be something both parties can agree on. We need to address this before the profiteers stake claim to it all, and we have to buy it by the gallon at whatever price they decide they would like. OPEC would seem insignificant compared to the chaos that could be caused by a water cartel.

Excuse the next bit, it’s a little boring, but I will explain how it works in your state. I think this is something we need to work on, and I also feel there is little middle ground on this one (2girlsincollege, this one’s for you) and we need to do something to make our leaders change it so when we are sitting at home eating soy based crackers because all the food is gone, walking our horse and buggy once there is no oil left, we will still be able to have a nice cool drink when we get home.

This is how it works.

The Absolute Dominion Rule
Permits a landowner to intercept ground water that would otherwise have been available to a neighboring water user and even to monopolize the yield of an aquifer without incurring liability. Eight states adopted or indicated a preference for the Absolute Dominion rule: Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Texas.

The Reasonable Use Rule
Limits a landowner’s use of water to those uses that have a reasonable relationship to the use of the overlying land. The rule is essentially the rule of absolute ownership with exceptions for wasteful and off-site use. Twenty-one states adopted or indicated a preference for the Reasonable Use rule: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Four of these states adopted the Reasonable Use rule in conjunction with the Prior Appropriation rule: Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri and Wyoming. Another state, Nebraska, adopted a Reasonable Use rule
in conjunction with the Correlative Rights rule.

The Correlative Use Rule
Maintains that the authority to allocate water is held by the courts. Owners of overlying land and non-owners or transporters have co-equal or correlative rights in the reasonable, beneficial use of groundwater. A major feature of this doctrine is the concept that adjoining lands can be served by a single aquifer. Therefore, the judicial power to allocate water permits protects both the public’s interest and the interests of private users. Six states adopted or indicated a preference for the Correlative Rights rule: California, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont.

The Restatement of Torts Rule
Holds that a landowner who uses ground water for a beneficial purpose is not subject to liability for interference if certain conditions are met. The water withdrawal cannot cause unreasonable harm to a neighbor by lowering the water table or reducing artesian pressure, cannot exceed a reasonable share of the total store of ground water and cannot create a direct and substantial effect on a watercourse or lake. Three states adopted or indicate a preference for the Restatement of Torts doctrine: Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The Prior Appropriation Rule
Maintains that the first landowner to beneficially use or divert water from a water source is granted priority of right. The amount of ground water this priority, or senior, appropriator may withdraw can be limited based on reasonableness and beneficial purposes. Some states have replaced or supplemented the Prior Appropriation doctrine with a permit system. Twelve states adopted or indicate a preference for the Prior Appropriation rule: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Washington.


By Aaron Styles

A provocateur, and writer for more than 25 years, Aaron has simplified and humanized the complicated areas of politics, the environment and human interest issues. Skeptical by nature and anonymous by requirement, Aaron enjoys nothing more than getting the conversation started.