(Ground)water on the brain

San Joaquin County's latest groundwater trends. The red arrows represent wells where water levels are dropping.

Responding to Sunday’s story about groundwater levels dropping in east San Joaquin County, reader Robert Lee offers this suggestion:

“Groundwater is subject to the ‘tragedy of the commons,’ whereby an aquifer theoretically owned by all those who own land above it may be drained by the farmer with the biggest well. But there is a way to ensure that the water, or its value, is fairly shared.

“Let us say that an aquifer is defined by geological experts. Then we can clearly say that this water is ‘owned’ by all those whose property overlies the aquifer so defined, in proportion to the acreage they own.

“Let an elected body decide how much water can be sustainably pumped out of this aquifer, this season.

“Then those who want water can bid for this water, each requesting so many acre feet at his offering price.

“The bids are accepted, starting from highest to lowest, until the ‘safe’ amount of water to be drawn that season is allocated, and the total funds received, less the amount required to operate the water management district, is distributed to all the landowners who ‘own’ the aquifer.

“Simple enough, though safeguards would have to be applied to prevent one entity from purchasing all the water, and thereby creating a seller’s market.

“I have been working for a water district for over 40 years, so I know a little about water.”

Any more ideas? If you send them, I’ll post them. This state can use all the ideas it can get.

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