Quantitative Groundwater Law
Water Law and Economics
Published Online: 15 APR 2005
Copyright © 2005 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
How to Cite
Lawson, M. 2005. Quantitative Groundwater Law. Water Encyclopedia. 627–634.
- Published Online: 15 APR 2005
From ancient times, the law looked upon surface water and groundwater as separate resources, requiring separate rules for ownership and use. Whereas surface water was considered a public good to be shared among competing users, groundwater was equated with private property to be appropriated by the landowner at will.
The separate classification and treatment of groundwater can be attributed, in part, to a primitive understanding of hydrogeology; a mathematical description of groundwater storage and movement was not formulated until the midnineteenth century and not widely disseminated until the late twentieth century. Without an understanding of aquifer characteristics, legal authorities lacked a basis for developing sophisticated groundwater allocation rules. The occurrence and nature of groundwater was, to them, too “… uncertain …[to] subject it to the regulations of law…”.