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Conjunctive Use of Groundwater and Surface Water

Frank J. Trelease, Proceedings of 27th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1981)

Conjunctive use of ground and surface water is a fine thing. Legislators, water administrators, study commissions, and authors of papers and articles unanimously endorse it. No one has ever said a bad word against it. The only trouble is, not everybody is talking about the same it. Conjunctive use turns out to be a number of different things, when all the physical acts and legal techniques that have been so called are analyzed. The problem is not like that of the committee of blind men who investigated the elephant, each thinking it was something different, according to the part of the beast he had grabbed. There is no elephant here; there really is a snake, a tree, a wall and a rope. Several different techniques for solving several different physical and legal problems have all been called conjunctive use.

No one has formulated an all-inclusive definition. A California administrator said that conjunctive use usually refers to the underground storage of surface water supplies.1 A Colorado lawyer described a system in [1854] which physically related ground and surface water are legally integrated and used [together].2 The definitions are so different because the problems addressed by the authors were so different. The Colorado problem is that the surface flows of the Arkansas and South Platte Rivers are being depleted by wells drilled into the broad aquifers that accom