The Driller crew recently attended the 2022 South Atlantic Jubilee, which wrapped up Aug. 1 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While there, we spoke to Water Systems Council legal adviser Jesse Richardson. The longtime groundwater advocate told Driller Newscast anchor Brock Yordy about the three big water issues he’s following.
WOTUS and Sackett v. EPA
Number one: waters of the United States (WOTUS). Every time a new presidential administration comes in, they change the regulations that define what Waters of the United States are. Why do we care? What that is, is under the Clean Water Act, the EPA, and the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers have authority to regulate discharges to waters of the United States. If groundwater is a “water of the United States,” conceivably well contractors could have to get a permit from the federal government to drill a well. So we have conflicting definitions from the regulatory agencies and now … the United States Supreme Court recently decided that they’re going to hear the Sackett case, which is spot-on to, how do we figure out what is a “water of the United States”? We’re expecting that’s going to be heard [with] oral arguments and in October, November. Then in early 2023, we should have a decision of some type.
Fallout from County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund
The second thing, and it’s related to that: There was a decision about two years ago in Maui County. It said if, in certain circumstances, you put a contaminant into the ground, where it seeps into the ground — it could be a septic tank, could be anything — and it goes through the groundwater into a navigable water, you might have to get a permit. The United States Supreme Court gave us a very confusing test on that (in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund), and now the lower courts are trying to figure out what that means. Again, we had the Trump EPA give some guidance. President Biden’s EPA has revoked that and is coming up with some of their own that we’re waiting for.
Western U.S. Droughts
The third of my big three is the drought in the West. We’ve got a lot going on, but it’s the biggest drought in 1,200 years. The Colorado River is dry and we’re cutting back water to Arizona, California and other states. The California governor just issued a sweeping executive order to make sure that water wells that are drilled now are not going to interfere with other wells, and are going to be sustainable. … We’re also looking at probably new regulation in Arizona.
Those are the really big three things that are happening. It’s moving fast and we might know some things by December, but more likely early 2023. Keep up with this and if you see something in your local area, let your state association know. Let us, the Water Systems Council, know and we will do the best we can to try to help the industry have a voice.
Water Systems Council
The Water Systems Council is a non-profit that focuses on issues and availability surrounding private and small, shared water well systems. For more information, visit www.watersystemscouncil.org.