In this time of public administration and regulation of groundwater resources – does ownership still matter for public access to water and sustainable use?
During the last decades, several European national legislations changed groundwater ownership models from private to publicly controlled ownership models. The study shows that private ownership of groundwater rights is more common in the northern parts of Europe whilst in the middle and the southern parts, state ownership or ownership by the citizens is more widely used. All ownership models have imperfections regarding public access and protection of groundwater, and achieving these aims will require some sort of societal control beyond what an ownership model alone can offer. The paper demonstrates, especially though examples from Nordic legislation, that public access and control of groundwater can be exercised in countries with private ownership of the resource.