tragedy of the groundwater commons

In rural areas served by private wells, people’s water supplies are susceptible to regional declines in the water table.  Essentially, if the groundwater is not managed sustainably, some people’s wells can just dry up.  This happened recently in a rural community north of the California town of Clovis.  Those whose wells dried up had requested the local council to consider connecting the area to a public water supply, and the rural area proposed a tax to take on the $23.4 million cost of the water treatment facility and pipelines.  The tax broke down into roughly $58,000 per household.  It was voted down.

Apparently the county was unable to secure financial assistance from state or federal funding, so the residents had to split the cost among themselves.  As area resident Shawna Speake said, “We cannot come up with equivalent of a Chevy Tahoe brand new. I want to vote yes with my neighbors, but I feel like more of us think this is a burden.”  Some area residents will likely be forced to walk away from homes with virtually no value, due to the lack of water supply.  The tragedy of the commons, embodied – and who knows how long the other residents will have a reliable groundwater supply?

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