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Ag Law in the Field

Jun 8, 2017

Today's guest on the show is Jesse Richardson, a Professor at the West Virginia College of Law.  Jesse is another agricultural economics graduate turned lawyer who loves green chile and discussing the topic of exempt wells more than anyone I know!

As Jesse and I explain, exempt wells are generally something found in Western states that follow the prior appropriation doctrine when it comes to groundwater. They are, however, also found in the Texas groundwater legal scheme, even though we follow the Rule of Capture.  Exempt wells are found in:  AK, AZ, CO, ID, KS, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, WA, and WY.

Essentially, in states where a person must obtain a permit to drill a water well, exempt wells carve out a certain set of wells for which no permit is required.  The most common examples are domestic wells or livestock wells.  Given the rather de minimus amount of water withdrawn by these wells, the high cost associated with obtaining a permit, and the administrative burden associated with permitting, legislatures in 16 states have determined that certain wells should not have to get a permit.   Importantly, as Jesse points out, while exempt wells are excused from some of the permitting processes, they are not exempt from the prior appropriation doctrine.

After the basic overview, we discuss recent cases and controversies involving exempt wells in New Mexico, Montana, and Washington State.

We close the show with Jesse's restaurant recommendation and a law he would like to see changed.  On the restaurant front, he gives us our first international restaurant!  He recently traveled to Canada and reports that Diwa Classic Indian Cuisine in Guelph, Ontario (just outside of Toranto) is a must-visit.  

With regard to a law he would like to see changed, he offered two.  First, related to exempt wells, he said he would like to see the Washington legislature find a way to balance competing interests in environmental protection and economic development in drafting their exempt well statute.  Second, he went controversial and said he would like to see the home mortgage tax deduction done away with, as he feels that it just does not make much sense.


Contact info for Jesse Richardson





Links to topics mentioned on the show

- West Virginia College of Law Land Use Clinic

- The Pink Adobe

- Exempt Wells in Agriculture (outlining exempt well statutes across the US)