Water rights in areas of ground-water mining

Circular 347




Ground-water mining, the progressive depletion of storage in a ground-water reservoir, has been going on for several years in some areas, chiefly in the Southwestern States. In some of these States a water right is based on ownership of land overlying the ground-water reservoir and does not depend upon putting the water to use; in some States a right is based upon priority of appropriation and use and may be forfeited if the water is allowed to go unused for a specified period, but ownership of land is not essential; and in several States both these doctrines or modifications thereof are accepted, and each applies to certain classes of water or to certain conditions of development.

Experience to date indicates that a cure for ground-water mining does not necessarily depend upon the water-rights doctrine that is accepted in the area. Indeed, some recent court decisions have incorporated both the areal factor of the landownership doctrines and the time factor of the appropriation doctrine. Overdraft can be eliminated if water is available from another source to replace some of the water taken from the affected aquifer. In areas where no alternate source of supply is available at reasonable cost, public opinion so far appears to favor treating ground water as a nonrenewable resource comparable to petroleum and metals, and mining it until the supply is exhausted, rather than curbing the withdrawals at an earlier date.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water rights in areas of ground-water mining
Series title:
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center
iv, 16 p.
United States