ENVIRONMENT: The question of the belonging of the water in the basement always arises

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In France, the United States or Africa, food manufacturers are regularly sued by populations local because they collect water from the basements to bottle it and market it; they are accused of buying land on which springs are found in order to exploit them. The populations accuse them of appropriating the resource to sell it (and thus make a profit) and of drying up the water tables to the detriment of crops.

In France, the ownership of the basement is defined by the civil code which also applies to the territory of the community of Saint-Martin. Article 552 stipulates that the owner of a plot owns the land on the surface but also the subsoil to the center of the Earth. That is to say that if there is a source on the ground, the owner is free to exploit it as he wishes. On condition that the waters which flow from this source do not form a watercourse.

If the waters that come out of the source form a stream, they are then considered to have the character of public running waters. The source and the waters do not belong to the owner of the land but to the community in the general sense of the term and the owner of the land does not have the right to divert the waters.

Therefore, the question is to identify the ordinary springs and the springs having a sufficient flow to form a real stream. In 2019, agents from the biodiversity agency came to Saint-Martin to draw up an inventory of the ravines. They had identified on the ground a dozen rivers in the French part, which had to be mapped, officially listed for the first time.

In addition, there is the question of wells. One of the best known – at least the most used – is the one at the fountain in the car park opposite the stadium in Marigot rue de Hollande. Every day residents come to fill tanks. Companies also come to fill their tank trucks to sell water to individuals. This captured water – which is not subject to health analyzes and therefore cannot be drunk – comes from a well located on Community land.

In Saint-Martin, the exploitation of water from the basement is a problem. The RSM list has also integrated it into its program. “Stop the destruction of wells and rehabilitate them in order to benefit from a sufficient supply of water; settle with the State the ownership of the water located in the basement” are two measures that the RSM wishes to implement.

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