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« CRS InFocus Report: 'Federal Assistance for Wildfire Response and Recovery' | Main | Elaine J. Hanford's Bulletin Boards: 1) Geoscience; 2) Environmental Science; 3) Coastal Zone Management - 2 May 2022 »

Sunday, 01 May 2022


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EJ Hanford, PhD

Here is the California perspective on "Resilient California Water Portfolios Require Infrastructure Investment Partnerships That Are Viable for All Partners"
In a drought-stricken State, with significant degradation of major aquifers, the mention of allocating water for Nature is not a prominent feature of "resilient" water portfolios.

EJ Hanford, PhD

The need to grant "personhood" to aquifers or rivers is a direct response to humans assuming they have the "right" to take the water they want or to pollute the water, with little regard for the vital role that water plays within the overall ecosystem.
Thus, humans overdraft rivers and groundwater aquifers and take little to no responsibility for the consequent (essentially non-recoverable) collapse of groundwater aquifers and land subsidence.
Ah, but it will keep lawyers employed and will keep legislators/authorities occupied for decades to come.

Gabriel Eckstein

Hi Michael. I applaud your proposal to develop a "top 10" list of aquifers on the brink. We definitely need more light shed on groundwater use and management, and top 10 lists seem to capture some measure of public attention.

As for affording legal personality to water rivers and other natural phenomena, the idea has been batted around for decades. The challenge is in implementation. My sense is that some people are so disenchanted with our existing protection and conservation laws, they are willing to try anything. I am not against affording legal personality to rivers and aquifer. But, as you intimate in your essay, we need to know what we're getting into. Unintended consequences will certainly arise from such action (Who will pay for the river's or aquifer's legal fees (e.g., taxpayers, donations)? Can you sue a river for flooding your home? Should/can a river or aquifer own the land on/through which it flows?), and we'll need to learn to live with them, or go back to the drawing board.

For those interested, I curated a series of essays on this issue a few years ago. My concluding essay is available here (, and it links to all of the other essays in the series. The series was later republished in 2019 in Vol. 46 (issues 6 & 7) of the journal, Water International.

Matt Heberger

I think this would be a very good initiative. Completely agree that groundwater is "out of sight, out of mind" for most Americans.

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