There is, of course, a natural interplay between water on the surface and the groundwater. Drillers know this, hydrogeologists know this and, increasingly, policy makers know it.

This story reminded me of that fact. Many groundwater professionals know the situation in parts of Oregon: senior surface water rights trump junior water rights, and dry conditions push those senior rights holders to play their trump cards. Junior rights holders go dry.

What does this have to do with groundwater rights? If you click through and read the Statesman Journal story, you find that the Oregon Water Resources Department, which regulates water in the region has started identifying groundwater wells that may impact the surface water of senior rights holders.

Consider the situation of the farmer mentioned in the story, Tom Mallums. He has a groundwater well to irrigate alfalfa and grains. The OWRD identified his well as one of 180 that could affect the surface water rights of nearby surface water users (like Indian tribes, which the story says hold the most senior rights in the region).

Policy makers, based on their computer models, say that one man's well is depleting his neighbor's surface water. 

I'm interested in your thoughts, particularly from drillers and other groundwater professionals in the western U.S., Texas and other areas seeing drought. Is groundwater regulation tied to surface water regulation in your area? If so, how is it regulated, and by whom? If it's not, should it be? Or should government (and its complex and expensive regulations) stay out of it and let the market handle it?

We've written about the arid areas of Washington state before. The web of regulations, unfortunately, may get increasingly sticky for drillers and their clients as droughts persist in other areas, like California and Texas. Share your thoughts, rants and ideas with me at

Stay safe out there, drillers.