Frequent Questions

I am curious if there are currently any federal laws that would pertain to protection of aquifers as a natural resource. I know states implement their own management plans but if the water is depleting are there measures that can be taken to protect them?

There are no federal laws that protect against aquifer depletion per se. Generally, the management of ground water withdrawals is controlled by state authorities and out of bounds to federal agencies.

Section 9508 of the Secure Water Act (PL 111-11) authorizes grants for states to better characterize surface water and ground water availability e.g., ground water levels, use and recharge; but not to manage it.

However, if aquifer depletion were shown to endanger an endangered or threatened species, it may be possible for the Department of Interior (DOI) to use the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to address ground water withdrawals to protect that species.

The questioner should contact their state fish and wildlife agency regarding the existence of endangered or threatened species and ground water conditions that may affect their status. Then, under the best of circumstances, prepare to pursue extensive litigation; there may already be some history on this front.

The Safe Drinking Water Act has provisions for states to regulate a) the underground injection of fluids and b) the areas around drinking water wells to prevent the contamination of underground sources of drinking water (USDWs) but those provisions address only ground water quality, not quantity.

 

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