Interfering with underground water

Interfering with the flow of a stream can cause a nuisance if damage is suffered but the law of surface streams is not applicable to water percolating underground. 

Many old private water supply systems on farms benefit from underground water percolation from undefined channels.  It means you, as a farmer, who owns these types of water supply systems cannot take any action against a person who, say, sinks a well or digs a pond on his nearby land which reduces the volume of water you collect.

The common law is uncharacteristically unequivocal on this point.  However help is at hand in the form of section 48(A) Water Resources Act 1991. It creates a statutory duty on a person abstracting water from any inland water or underground strata not to cause loss or damage to another person by that abstraction. The abstraction need not be by pump or pipe; it can include a natural overflow from an artificial lake, for example.

On the one hand, this duty can provide an important remedy if your water supply system is affected but on the other, it creates an obvious and potentially very costly problem if you interfere with the water table yourself.

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