State groundwater is considered private property that belongs to the overlying surface owner; however, it is subject to reasonable regulation by the OWRB. Each applicant is allotted two acre-feet/year per acre of land in basins where maximum annual yield studies have not yet been completed, and slightly more or less than that amount in basins where studies have determined how much water may be safely withdrawn.
As with stream water, before actual use of the water for any purpose other than domestic, persons intending to use groundwater must submit a permit application to the OWRB. Normally, the applicant must publish notice of the application in a newspaper in the county where the well(s) is to be located and give notice by certified mail to landowners within ¼ mile of the proposed well location(s). Before the application is approved, the Board must determine the following: the applicant owns or leases the land, the land overlies a fresh groundwater basin or subbasin, the proposed use is beneficial, and waste by depletion or pollution will not occur. Again, if protested, the Board holds an administrative hearing on the matter.
The Board issues four types of groundwater permits: regular, temporary, special and provisional temporary. A regular permit is approved for a proportionate amount of water determined by the maximum annual yield of the basin and the percentage of the land overlying the basin which is owned or leased by the applicant. For basins in which no hydrologic survey has been conducted and no maximum annual yield determined, the OWRB issues a temporary permit allowing the withdrawal of two acre-feet/year of water per acre owned or leased; a regular permit may then be issued upon determination of the basin's yield. Special permits, renewable three times, allow six-month water use in excess of that allocated under a regular or temporary permit. Provisional temporary permits, frequently sought by oil companies requiring water for the drilling of oil and gas wells, allow use for up to 90 days. Provisional temporary permits may be approved by the executive director of the OWRB and do not require public notice and hearing. As with stream water, groundwater permits may be either transferred or assigned.