Generally, the law supports a land owner’s right to access and use any resources located on, above and below the surface of the land in question. Certainly, numerous exceptions apply to this rule. These exceptions present just one reason why it is generally beneficial to speak with an experienced attorney before engaging in any major changes to one’s land. Another reason why it can be beneficial to speak with an attorney is that accessing certain resources can affect one’s neighbors.

Sometimes, even if one is legally accessing resources on one’s own land, the effects that this action has on one’s neighbors can present legal problems. Some Californians are learning this lesson the hard way due to complex legal challenges which are arising in the quest to access water during the drought.

The New York Times recently published a piece about the fact that many California farmers are currently digging deep into the earth in order to access precious groundwater. Although they may believe that they are simply using the resources that belong to them and legally connect to their land, many of these farmers are negatively impacting the ability of their neighbors to access the ground water on their land.

When resources are scarce, both intentional and unintentional competition for remaining resources can understandably arise. It is important to keep in mind as the drought continues though that your actions and/or your neighbor’s actions related to water on your land may ultimately be illegal because they do not impact the land owner alone. If you have questions about accessing resources on your land or questions about how your neighbors are dealing with their resources, do not hesitate to bring your questions to an attorney.

Source: New York Times, “California Farmers Dig Deeper for Water, Sipping Their Neighbors Dry,” Matt Richtel, June 5, 2015