Last week I attended the 1st Annual Texas Groundwater Summit which was sponsored by the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts. It was a great conference and I learned a lot about groundwater issues and how they are affecting landowners. In case you haven’t heard, Texas is in a drought and water is a big issue in Texas. Some of the most interesting facts I learned at the Summit are:
- 60% of water in Texas is groundwater;
- Groundwater provides 39% of water to cities;
- 81% of water in Texas is used for irrigation;
- As our surface water needs become unreliable (due to the drought), our demand for groundwater will grow;
- Our current water supply will not meet demand. In fact, the supply will decrease 30% between 2010 and 2060.
Management of this resource is vital to ensure the food supply and economic growth for the next generation of Texans. However, the effective management of groundwater is not without controversy. There are many interested parties at the table – farmers and ranchers, oil and gas industry, water marketers and municipalities – each with different uses and priorities for the available groundwater. Our state’s challenge is to balance all of these interests in order to provide for the inevitable growth in Texas.
What does this mean for Texas landowners?
- Groundwater is vital. The value of your property and the future economy of Texas is dependent upon the availability of water.
- Know your rights. The Supreme Court recently affirmed in Edwards Aquifer Authority vs. Day that Texas landowners own the water beneath their land and they have the right to capture it. However, local groundwater conservation districts also have the authority to regulate the pumping of groundwater. One of the biggest unresolved issues is: Does this regulation constitute a taking?
- Stay informed. The Texas Legislature will convene in January 2013 and they will be making some tough choices regarding groundwater that will affect all Texans. Braun & Gresham will be monitoring the bills that are filed and providing updates on opportunities to get involved. If you would like to stay up to date on this issue, please sign up for the Landowner Alert System.