June 01, 2019

Maps, Models, and Mystery: Interconnected Groundwater and the Public Trust

Nicole L. Kuenzi

Walk into the office of any water law practitioner, anywhere, and you might think you made a wrong turn and walked into the office of your local cartographer. We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of riparian ownership. In turn, injury to a surface water right is determined by physics, as the topography of the land establishes the linear relation of impacts from other diversions, whether it be upstream (cause), or downstream (affected). In homage to these principles, some hydrologists will orient their maps top-to-bottom as upstream to downstream, rather than north to south. In our practice, gravity is our compass.

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