Alan H. Coogan


TO A NOVICE IN THE LAW, the problems of groundwater rights seem to straddle awkwardly the physical and social realms. The law-a formal set of rules by which society is ordered-seems to the physical scientist a strangely confusing and confused tool with which to define, even in a social context, the parameters and limits of a physical continuum. For example, on the basis of attorney's briefs, bolstered even by expert testimony, judges have legally defined "subterranean streams"' and erected criteria for recognizing such streams that sound more like the rhetoric of Humpty Dumpty than a description of a body of water one could scoop up in a bucket, or upon which one could float a rubber raft. On the other hand, it is definitely possible to float a rubber raft in underground streams, which by legal definition do not exist. As one reads the cases, it is apparent, that however necessary such definitions are to the resolution of individual rights to groundwater, the definitions may transfer poorly from the facts of one case to those of another, and therefore serve a poor basis for policy.