Groundwater wells: Legal? Detrimental?

The practice of digging groundwater wells for private use inside the city is on the rise. For reasons well known to everyone, we Venezuelans now find ourselves in the position of having to fend for ourselves in the case of services that should be provided by the government. Such is the case of electric power and running water.

There is a Waters Act that is supposed to guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of this natural resource. According to this law, all water within the national territory, including groundwater, belongs to the nation as a whole and cannot be privately owned. The law does, however, provide for the granting of concessions, authorizations and licenses for the use of water.

Although not very clear, some of the special rules governing this resource provide that everyone may use this water –no authorization required–for bathing or other household activities when it is flowing along its natural course. In doing so, however, they may not alter the course of the waterway, adversely affect the quality thereof, change the course it follows or prevent others from exercising their right to this same water. Water use must also be in line with availability. This short-term and anarchic solution to our individual problems, in the form of private wells, is most probably paving the way for even greater problems in the future.

Angela C. Antakly H.

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