Tales of French Fries and Bottled Water: The Environmental Consequences of Groundwater Pumping
12 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2007
This article is a substantially revised version of the 19th Annual Distinguished Visitor lecture at Lewis and Clark Law School in September 2006. Drawing on my 2002 book, Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America's Fresh Waters (Island Press, 2002), I use stories about common activities in our daily life, such as drinking bottled water and eating French fried potatoes, to illustrate the horrible environmental consequences of groundwater pumping. Excessive groundwater pumping has dried up rivers and lakes around the country, including some very surprising areas, such as Florida and Massachusetts. The phenomenon comes from a disconnect between law and science: the science of hydrology understands that surface and groundwater are integrated parts of the hydrologic cycle, but the legal system governs ground and surface water by different legal doctrines. Rather than reforming the system, we have devised Rube Goldberg solutions, such as refilling dried-up lakes by pumping more groundwater. This illustrates a remarkable trait of human beings: we have an unlimited capacity to deny reality.
Keywords: Water, Water Law, Trade in Water
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