Subsurface Environment—Private Property or Public Domain?

by William R. Walker, (M.ASCE), Dir.; Virginia Water Resour. Res. Ctr., Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA,
William E. Cox, (A.M.ASCE), Res. Assoc.; Virginia Water Resour. Res. Ctr., Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA,


Serial Information: Journal of the Hydraulics Division, 1974, Vol. 100, Issue 11, Pg. 1699-1705


Document Type: Journal Paper

Abstract: The increasing utility of subsurface space is resulting in greater interest in the nature of the controls that govern use of this portion of the environment, including water supply, mineral extraction, underground storage, waste disposal, utility location, and commercial and industrial activities. Many of the uses of the subsurface environment are controlled by the institution of property rights. The landowner has exclusive rights to certain minerals located beneath his surface estate and somewhat more limited rights with respect to other natural resources, e.g., ground water. In addition, property rights definitions often imply exclusive rights to an indefinite depth, thereby technically excluding all uses by others even where use by the surface owner is not feasible. However, there is limited precedent for restriction of exclusive property rights to a depth subject to actual use as has been done in the case of overlying airspace.

Subject Headings: Underground structures | Underground storage | Lifeline systems | Water storage | Minerals | Waste storage | Subsurface environment

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