Texas’ Groundwater Rights in Supreme Court (Posted By Mike Mecke)
Courtesy: Public Strategies, Inc., Texas River Systems Institute. 2/24/10
“Texas Supreme Court to Decide on Groundwater Pumping Rights Case
The ownership and control of groundwater pumping rights in Texas are now in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Last week, the nine justices heard arguments in a case that pits the right of a landowner near Von Ormy to pump from the Edwards Aquifer against the government’s authority to regulate the use of ground and surface water. For more than a decade, the Edwards Aquifer Authority has argued that in order for it to regulate pumping, landowners cannot own the water in the Edwards Aquifer. It was first time the state’s highest court considered that argument. Scores of landowners, private organizations, cities and state agencies that disagree with the EAA packed the courtroom and formed a line outside. “Any ruling by the Court that in any manner destabilizes groundwater ownership rights could have dire consequences for Texans and the Texas economy,” wrote Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. The EAA was created by state law in 1993 to ensure a future water supply for the region and protect endangered species by limiting pumping from the aquifer. Instead of allowing landowners to continue to pump as much water as they wanted as long as they put it to some beneficial use, the authority issued pumping permits and put a cap on the total amount that could be pumped. The EAA argues that if the groundwater is owned by the landowners, then it and the roughly 95 groundwater conservation districts in the state would be open to a lawsuit every time they tried to limit pumping or be forced to compensate landowners.”
Right or Wrong?
What is your feeling on this case? I spent about ten years working on the Edwards Aquifer region with pumpers, towns and irrigators……….. before and after the EAA was created and users were obligated to observe new pumping rights and permits. I feel it was necessary to control over-use by any very large or uncaring users and to maintain adequate water use and irrigation pumping for all users. And also,of course, under the earlier Federal Endangered Species lawsuit, maintaining springflow at Comal and San Marcos to preserve the habitat for those ES…….. while helping to maintain adequate river flow in the rivers below the springs on the way to healthy bays and estuaries.
Going back to my earlier post – Whose water is it? Urban or Rural? Should a city or a wealthy individual be able to buy or take water from a smaller, agricultural community just because it has the money or can? Do urban lawns and golfcourses count for more than food or fiber crops, livestock or small town’s viability? Do you want to have to buy more and more of your family’s food from foreign markets? Not me! Or if you live in a city, would you rather have the financial help to your city’s economy and taxbase from a healthy surrounding agricultural region? Yes!
Water is Life! – it is not a commodity like oil or gas.