Ohio Water Compact Amendment, Issue 3 (2008)

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The Ohio Water Compact Amendment, also known as Issue 3, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Ohio as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved.[1] This amendment protects private property rights in ground water, lakes, and other watercourses.

Election results

Ohio Issue 3 (2008)
Approveda Yes 3,485,895 71.94%

Election results via the Ohio Secretary of State.[2]

Text of measure

See also: Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 19b

The language appeared on the ballot as:[3]



(Proposed by Joint Resolution of the General Assembly of Ohio)

To adopt section 19b of Article I of the constitution of the state of Ohio. This proposed Amendment would:

  1. Make explicit that a private property owner has a right to make reasonable use of the ground water that lies beneath the owner’s land, although this right is subordinate to the public welfare.
  2. Make explicit that a private property owner who owns land on the border of a lake or other watercourse has a right to make reasonable use of the water in such lake or watercourse located on or flowing through the owner’s land, although this right is subordinate to the public welfare.
  3. Not affect the public’s use of Lake Erie and other navigable waters of the state.
  4. Prevent the rights confirmed under this proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution from being impaired or limited by the operation of other sections of the Ohio Constitution.

If approved, this amendment shall take effect December 1, 2008.

A “YES” vote means approval of the amendment.
A “NO” vote means disapproval of the amendment.

A majority YES vote is required for the amendment to be adopted.
Shall the proposed amendment be approved? [4]


State Sen. Tim Grendell, a Cleveland-area Republican, sponsored the push in the Ohio State Legislature to place the measure on the ballot. He believed that unless approved, the Great Lakes Water Compact would have trampled private property rights by designating groundwater as publicly owned. During debate on whether to put Issue 3 on the ballot, Grendell said, "I fear that if adopted as it [the 7-state Great Lakes Compact] stands today, ownership of waters within the Great Lakes Basin, including tributaries, wells and groundwater, would be in dispute and ultimately left up to costly litigation and the whims of a federal judge in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, individual property owners would have little recourse."[5]

Democratic Governor Ted Strickland endorsed Issue 3 on October 21, 2008.[6]

Arguments in favor

The following reasons were given in support of Issue 3 by a committee appointed by the Ohio Ballot Board:[3]

Voting “Yes” on this issue protects the private property rights of Ohioans, safeguards Ohio’s natural resources, and maintains the stability of Ohio’s jobs and economy by recognizing and protecting property interests in ground water, lakes and watercourses.

This constitutional amendment was proposed by a bi-partisan supermajority of Ohio’s legislators who recognized that the preservation of private property interests is important to all Ohioans. These property rights are critical not only to property owners, but also to the protections of natural resources and the Ohio economy. Your “Yes” vote will ensure the protection of private property rights, natural resources, and Ohio’s jobs and economy.

Voting “Yes” will:

  • Affirm that a property owner has a property interest in the reasonable use of ground water under the property owner’s land;
  • Affirm that an owner of land along lakes and watercourses has a property interest in the reasonable use of water in that lake or watercourse located on or flowing through that land;
  • Ensure that Ohio law continues to protect these water use rights for all Ohio citizens.[4]

The official ballot argument in support of Issue 3 was signed by State Senators Timothy Grendell and Capri Cafaro.


House Democratic Leader Rep. Joyce Beatty of Columbus led the move against adoption of the ballot issue resolution. She said she wasn't certain the property-rights protections belonged in the constitution, where passage by voters would place it, and that Grendell was trying to strong-arm lawmakers.[5]

Other opponents included The League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Ohio League of Conservation Voters.

Arguments against

The following reasons were given in opposition of Issue 3 by the Ohio Ballot Board due to the absence of any voluntary opposing submission:[3]

Vote no on Issue #3.

Issue #3 is an unnecessary addition to the Ohio Constitution. The Supreme Court of Ohio already determined that private property owners have rights to the ground water underlying their land and to the watercourse flowing on and through their land. Vote no on Issue #3.

Issue # 3 makes changes to the Constitution so specific that they mention legal doctrines that are not contained in the Constitution. What if those legal doctrines change by court rulings? Parts of our Constitution would no longer be relevant. That is not appropriate for our Constitution, which is supposed to be the voice of the People.

Issue #3 does not give an accurate picture of a private property owner’s rights. Property owners do not actually own the water beneath their land. They have a right to a reasonable use of that water, but the state always has the power to regulate how it is used and take it for just compensation. Issue #3 gives private property owners the false sense of security that their land cannot be taken away at a later date. We do not know what the future will hold. We should not limit ourselves by passing this amendment.

Vote no on Issue #3.[4]

The official ballot argument in opposition of Issue 3 was not signed by anyone.

See also

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