Last time, we began speaking about the Groundwater Use Act of 1972, which established the reasonable use rule when it comes to the use of water within one’s property. The reasonable use rule contrasts with the rule of absolute ownership in that it puts limits on landowners’ use of groundwater beneath their property.
For one thing, the law prevents unlimited use of groundwater by requiring a permit from the Environmental Protection Division for those making use of more than 100,000 gallons per day for any purpose. The law also gives priority to applicants who intend to make use of groundwater for non-consumptive purposes.
In such cases, permits are issued without the same conditions. For example, an applicant who intends to use groundwater for consumptive purposes, they may not have the same restrictions when it comes to well depth, maximum pumping rate aquifers that may be used, and the amount of groundwater that may be withdrawn or used. Applications in which consumptive groundwater use would have an unreasonably negative effect on other uses may be denied.
When a water user obtains a permit to withdraw water, he or she must not exceed the uses and conditions specified by the permit. Groundwater use permits may not be transferred without first obtaining approval from the Environmental Protection Division. It is possible in some cases for a water user to modify a permit for increased water usage, but the user must submit a water conservation plan. The latter two requirements do not, however, apply to agricultural use permits.
Those who have questions about obtaining a permit, modifying a permit or dealing with other issues related to the use of groundwater should contact an experienced environmental law attorney for guidance and advocacy.