This guest column emphasizes the need for the industry's involvement in determining water management.

In most states, water wells provide a large percentage of citizens with their water supply. In addition, commercial and industrial wells are giving business and industry an economical source of water for their use. Why then, as states prepare water supply and management plans, are private wells being left out of the equation? The answer, I think, is fairly simple. As an industry, we are not asserting ourselves in the planning process. In addition, we are not doing a good job of asserting the positive aspects of a private water supply.

In the western part of the country, state-wide and inter-state battles over water rights, planning and management are raging. They have been for some time. In the eastern United States, however, several consecutive years of drought have been the impetus for state governments to put the development of water supply policy and planning on the front burner.

In Virginia, for example, the governor has announced an initiative aimed at development of a state-wide water supply and management plan. As a part of that initiative, he has appointed a new Citizens Technical Advisory Committee, which is to sort out water policy issues and make recommendations on how to proceed with a plan to those agencies that are charged with developing a Virginia plan.

Through the work of the Virginia Water Well Association’s lobbyist and contacts made by the association’s legislative chairman, Robert Royall, president of Royall Pump and Well Co., the association has gained a seat on the advisory council. Being a part of that group’s discussions will be useful to the association as it asserts its position on the role of private wells in the state’s water delivery system. Participation provides first-hand information on the positions of other stakeholders on the issues, as well as providing an up-front view of the state’s position. Ultimately, this information will be useful to the industry at large.

Private wells are an important resource and need to be protected. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Drilling.
Some ideas that are being considered:

  • There is support for the concept that all water supply planning be implemented through municipal water plans.

  • There is talk of municipal-type water needs taking precedence over all other uses of water. Local governments would be required to predict their water needs not only for the present, but also for projected growth and development. They would then be able to devise means to protect whatever resources – ground or surface water – they might need for the future.

  • There is an assumption on the part of state government that the state should control all water supplies – even though ground water law in Virginia supports the property owners’ right to “reasonable use” of the water beneath their property.

  • There is little recognition by people outside our industry of the positive impacts of private wells on the environment, the costs of delivering water to rural areas and private business, and on public health and safety.

In short: For the most part, those who are engaged in state-wide water supply planning are not considering private wells as a resource. Further-more, they are not concerned about preserving citizens’ right to choose their water supply – even though wells are now and have been a primary source of water for all beneficial uses.

I suspect that the Virginia experience is not unique. If it is, it won’t be for long. Certainly it raises the question of how involved drillers are in their state’s water supply planning activities. State-wide water planning is fast becoming a fact of life. Federal initiatives exist that will speed up this process in the west and eventually nation-wide. Are state water well associations ready to be involved in the process? Are association members ready to be advocates for the role of wells in the water delivery system? There still is time for the answer to be yes.

Private wells provide a safe, economical and environmentally friendly source of water. However, if representatives of our industry are not represented at all in discussions of state-wide water policy, we may soon discover that the voices of those who think that public water systems are the preferred water delivery system will be the only voices that are heard.