Underground water percolating through the soil is often sought by the owner of the overlaying property for personal or commercial use. In order to resolve disputes for underground water use, the legal system has developed a number of rules. The following rules are generally applicable to underground water, depending on the state or jurisdiction:

  • Absolute Ownership Rule: Diffuse underground water is owned by the surface owner. No surface owner may complain as to the activities of another surface owner with regard to the common basin, except where the use is malicious. This rule is usually applied in jurisdictions where water supply is plentiful.
  • Reasonable Use Rule: The arid state limits the activities of surface owners by imposing a reasonable use standard on their use of underground water. A relevant consideration when assessing the reasonableness of a particular use is whether the water will return to recharge the aquifer.
  • Correlative Rights Rule: In California, all surface owners are treated as having equal rights to the water, and a court may apportion it among them.
  • Appropriation: Many western states now apply their appropriation systems to underground water.

Should I Contact a Property Attorney for My Water Use Dispute?

If you are experiencing a dispute over an underground water supply, you may find the advice of a property attorney to be extremely helpful. Because of the complex nature of this area of law, the counsel of an experienced property attorney can help determine the best possible solution to your legal problem.