There are close to one thousand requests a year to open new wells. The water resources department at the regional environment ministry received 924 requests last year, there having been 999 in 2017 and 942 the year before.
The requests are not all met. Last year, 805 permissions were granted. In 2017 there were 662, and 617 in 2016. So far this year, there have been twenty requests and six permissions.
While there are, therefore, numerous correct procedures for opening wells and extracting water each year, there are also those which are not correct. Over the past three years, the water resources department has taken out 42 proceedings for illegal soundings and extraction. For a well to be authorised, there are two steps - permission to open a well and permission to extract a set volume of water.
Detecting unlawful wells can sometimes be difficult if the wells are on private land; inspectors cannot simply enter and check. However, the water resources department is able to monitor the levels of water in aquifers. If there is an unexpected drop in levels, this could be because of illegal extraction. Checks can be made against meters which register permitted volumes of water. If these are exceeded, this is normally because water is being taken without permission. The department can then act, close the well and fine the owner of the land.
There are also many illegal wells which don't arouse the suspicions of inspectors. This is because they have been abandoned and are not performing any function. It is not uncommon for land to be sold and for the new owners to have no idea that there is an illegal well on the property.