It is our mission here at National Driller magazine to stay informed on all the happenings around the drilling industry as well as stay up-to-date on the latest news, products and projects affecting drillers across the world. In order to accomplish those feats, we aim to connect with our readers in as many ways as possible. But, sometimes, our readers take the time to reach out to us and their feedback proves to be invaluable.
Here is an example of that feedback: a letter from the Georgia Association of Groundwater Professionals to Pub-lisher Sarah Harding about the Jan-uary 2014 editorial, “Drink or Drought? Well Drilling Professionals Decide,” as well as Editor Jeremy Verdusco’s reply.
Dear Ms. Harding:
The members of the Georgia Association of Groundwater Professionals (GAGwP) and I read with dismay the ”Drink or Drought” article. The question many of us asked was, is this coming from the National Driller magazine or the Georgia Municipal Association magazine?
You asked, “What is the responsibility of the well drilling industry to the environment and where do the rights of one homeowner begin and end …?”
Every single well drilling contractor is well aware of his responsibility to the environment to protect it as earnestly as he possibly can. Without abundant, clean groundwater, there is no well drilling contractor or well drilling industry or National Driller magazine!
As to rights of the homeowner, in Georgia, we are fortunate to have riparian water rights unlike some jurisdictions in this country. The property owner owns the water under his property, Under the riparian principle, all landowners whose property adjoins a body of water have the right to make reasonable use of it as it flows through or over their property. However, some say the government owns all water in the state. Are you going to advocate that in your next article?
Rather than questioning the propriety of our suit, National Driller should be congratulating GAGwP on their decisive legal victory in Sandersville, Ga., and not making it appear that we pulled something over on “the small, 6,000 person city.” To be honest, it sounded as if the writer felt that everyone should be on the city’s public water system.
If a little more research had been done, it would have been found that the homeowner already had a well and was using it for his residential irrigation needs. He only wanted to install a new well to replace the old one and was not adding to any additional consumption. The city was denying him his constitutional right to drill a new well solely so that they could sell him water instead.
Concentrated municipal water providers have more impact on the aquifer than individual water users whose usage results in most of their consumption returning to the site of withdrawal, usually through septic systems and recharge of irrigation water. The only loss is to evaporation, which is returned to the Earth through the normal hydrogeologic cycle. As we are well aware, this year has seen an overabundance of rain in our area and has balanced effects of recent droughts.
The writer of this article seems to have taken a huge gulp of Chicken Little Kool-Aid. What industry does his journal represent? There is nothing that the city presented that shows the drilling of this well would impact anyone else’s well or usage of the community supply. Otherwise, the judge’s order would have so ordered because that would have been viewed as a “reasonable” application of the ordinance. Their only claim was that they needed to recover costs from improvements to their public water supply.
This whole issue is about government control of water rights that are a constitutionally protected property of the citizens. That right was once again reaffirmed and the National Driller editor should be glad of it.
The court rightfully found that the City of Sandersville’s local ordinance against drilling wells in the city limits was unconstitutional! It found that “a private landowner has, under the Georgia and Federal Constitutions, the right to drill a well or have a well drilled on his or her own property subject only to a government’s reasonable rules and regulations looking to the protection, safety and health of its citizens.”
This is a tremendous legal victory for well drillers and property owners throughout the state of Georgia! Owners who have been denied the ability to use their groundwater and been forced to pay connection fees and monthly user fees to the government for public water they did not want and which wasn’t as good as their well water. This is important not only for Georgia, but for other states too. In fact, we have had other drilling associations write to congratulate us and ask how we accomplished this!
Again, in saying that the court weighed the individual property owner’s liberty against the needs of the many and “the needs of the many didn’t measure up,” it sure sounds like you think the “needs” of the many outweighed the property owner’s right to his own property. The “needs” of the many in this instance was for the city to sell water to as many property owners as they possibly could to pay for their expensive water treatment plant and miles of unneeded water lines.
You say, “Water well drillers need to think hard about these issues.” Well, I think National Driller needs to think about whose side they are promoting!
This is just my opinion. We hope that you address this issue again in your next publication.
Georgia Association of Groundwater Professionals
National Driller responds
Thank you for your thoughtful critique of the editorial, “Drink or Drought? Well Drilling Professionals Decide,” which appeared in the January 2014 issue of National Driller. Engaging with readers is a responsibility I look forward to, even when—perhaps, especially when—that engagement takes me to task. I appreciate the input. It informs my sense of water well and other types of drilling, and shapes how I comment on the many drilling sectors we cover.
I want to emphasize a point of agreement. You wrote:
“Every single well drilling contractor is well aware of his responsibility to the environment to protect it as earnestly as he possibly can. Without abundant, clean groundwater, there is no well drilling contractor or well drilling industry or National Driller magazine!”
You drive the point home more clearly than I did. In making the same point about contractors’ responsibility as stewards of groundwater, I used two examples. One was the lawsuit and later superior court ruling in Sandersville, Ga. I wrote based on readily available information; I concede your point that information fell short.
Let me be clear: National Driller supports the drilling trades and regrets the appearance that we failed in that mission. As a magazine, we want to reflect the industry and the people who work in it.
Efforts to protect groundwater and groundwater professionals prevailed in this Georgia case. I applaud that. As drillers, you stepped up to be part of the discussion—in this case, in the courts. Those efforts can inspire drillers in California and Texas, for example, as they fight the specter of tighter regulation and permitting as parts of those states face drought.
I maintain that “water well drillers need to think hard about these issues,” as the GAGwP has. I stand by that summary in my editorial. I try to thoughtfully explore these issues in the pages of National Driller, and will continue to do so. Now, I’ll do so with a sharper eye thanks to your input.
Let me end with one other point, which I think we’d both agree on: Staying informed helps drillers engage and be part of the discussion, whether that discussion happens in the courts, the public square or state houses. As host of a public forum in this industry, staying informed is also a big part of my job. It’s not always easy, but it gets easier with feedback from readers and industry veterans like you.
As always, thank you for reading, and thank you for reaching out,
Editor of National Driller magazine