Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chino Valley Town council candidates to protect well owner's property rights (what property rights?)

This little piece showed up in the Chino Valley Review last week, describing a candidate forum for the Chino Valley Town Council. Chino Valley is a very small town just north of Prescott, Arizona and happens to be in the vicinity of where Prescott is planning to pump groundwater that will be transported into the Prescott area to support current and future growth. If you're interested I have posted previously on this project and some of the interesting legal issues that have some up because of it here and here.

I really love the way local politicians pander to their constituents by talking about their property rights in groundwater - when those rights consist of nothing more than the right to pump water out of the ground faster than your neighbors, who are trying to do the same thing. The property rights claims are always made when someone mentions the possibility of metering peoples wells to determine how much water they are using - this is just the first step in regulating how much water people can pump, they say. I guess they will know if they are pumping too much when they have to deepen their wells every 5 years. In this case Prescott is asking people to meter wells in the area, presumably so they can determine the sustainable yield of the aquifer, but those intrepid town council candidates see right through that ruse:
As for metering private wells, Schmidt said, "The metering idea comes from Prescott so it can get more water. Our private wells have no impact on Prescott."
Another candidate, Linda Hatch, said, "I don't think it (metering of private wells) will happen. If the wells go dry the town will offer them an opportunity to go on the town's system."
Candidate Robert Justice said metering of private wells is not the way to go. If a person's well goes dry they will have options.

Their big concern is that pumping by Prescott will dry up individual wells and they might be right, because Prescott has the same "property right" in the groundwater that they do, but they also have the resources to put in large, deep wells with high capacity pumps - giving them a heavy-duty property right.

So these folks are basically saying: there's no need to meter your pumping, because if everyone is pumping too much their wells will go dry and we'll hook you up to the city water system. What they don't mention is that those people will then be paying a lot more for their water and ... their water use will be metered (unless they have flat-rate water service up there). In other words they're happy to talk about protecting your water rights to get your vote even though they acknowledge that those water rights really aren't worth a damn. Do people really fall for this stuff?

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