groundwater conservation aquifer depletion
Credit: kaninw/BigStockPhotos ID: 430959740

Recent court rulings bolster state power to safeguard groundwater

In a significant shift, western states are gaining ground in the battle to conserve their precious groundwater resources.

Christopher Flavelle reports for The New York Times.


In short:

  • Recent court decisions in Idaho, Nevada and Montana have empowered states to enforce stricter groundwater usage rules to combat overpumping.
  • The rulings are part of a broader movement that includes California's steps to penalize over-extraction and the White House's consultation with scientists on federal support.
  • These measures address the critical decline in groundwater levels, a vital source for drinking water and agriculture exacerbated by climate change.

Key quote:

"This is truly exciting. There has been stuff like this off and on, but not in such a short period of time across the western states."

— Upmanu Lall, director of both the Water Institute at ASU and the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University.

Why this matters:

Groundwater depletion poses a threat to the sustainability of drinking water supplies, agricultural productivity and urban development. Whereas deference to water rights established in a bygone era have maintained a legacy of water injustice, these recent court decisions signal a pivotal shift to more equitable water considerations.

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