Water Flowing Underground

No one complains about the convenience of getting water from the tap, but there is something deep within us that loves drawing fresh water from the ground, the way generations of humans have done. Is it the special taste? The cool moistness of that spot of ground? Or is it the wondrous mystery that hovers around a well?

Photographer Kay Westhues of South Bend, Indiana, became so entranced by the continuing appeal of artesian wells — water that flows naturally from the ground, and usually routed through a pipe — that she created a website, Well Stories about "our relationship with the water we drink." The sites features photos of old artesian wells in the Midwest, and gather stories from the people who make their own personal meccas to gather water from the wells.

As Westhues explains on her website:

Who Owns the River?

The property rights crowd just can’t seem to comprehend that ownership rights are not absolute. Property doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but in a social, ecological context. The latest installment of this long-running drama is the controversy between private landowners in Gunnison, Colorado, and river-rafting outfitters that take people down the river.

The question at hand: Are the rafters violating the private property rights of landowners when they float down the river?

Historically, under the public trust doctrine of most state’s laws, the water in river and lakes belongs to everyone, and can be accessed through public rights of way. However, as the New York Times reported on April 16, it seems that they are some ambiguities about the scope of private landowner rights in Colorado. The water belongs to the public, but the river and lake beds and banks belong to the people who own the adjacent land.

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