Landowner groups urge districts to reaffirm groundwater as a vested property right
A group of 13 Texas landowner associations and organizations sent a letter to each state groundwater conservation district urging them to adopt a resolution or similar statement recognizing that landowners have a vested ownership interest in groundwater beneath their property. The letter is part of a larger effort, led by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB), the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and 10 other landowner groups, to reaffirm groundwater as a vested property right of landowners during the upcoming legislative session.
“We’re very encouraged by the groundwater conservation districts that are considering the resolution and recognizing the importance of reaffirming groundwater as a vested, real property right,” said Tina Y. Buford, president of the Texas Wildlife Association. “It is critical that this foundation principle be reaffirmed.”
The groups support local groundwater conservation districts so private landowners can work with their neighbors, rather than a distant state agency, to protect their groundwater rights and also conserve this valuable resource.
“Local control is critical to the management of groundwater,” said Dave Scott, TSCRA president. “However, that management should recognize and respect landowners’ property rights.”
The ownership of groundwater is a fundamental and legal right that all landowners have. Scott says that the Texas Constitution and more than 100 years of case law support this, but recently, several court cases have challenged this right.
“Landowners are concerned that if action is not taken to reaffirm this property right, they could wake up to find their groundwater rights stripped out from under them by the government and the courts,” Scott said.
The Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District has adopted a similar resolution. “By adopting a resolution recognizing that landowners have a vested ownership interest in groundwater beneath their property, groundwater conservation districts can demonstrate their commitment to recognize property rights to the landowners in their districts,” said Todd Fox, Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District vice president. “Landowners and local government should work together to protect this property right. It’s the right thing to do. Government should honor and protect landowners’ rights, not take them away,” Fox continued.
The groups have created www.groundwaterownership.com a website with information regarding groundwater regulations under the Texas Water Code, legal information surrounding groundwater ownership including court cases that are currently challenging this right, and facts and contact information. The growing effort is currently supported by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA); the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA); the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB); the Texas Poultry Federation (TPF); the Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA); the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association (TSGRA); the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA); the Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD); the South Texans’ Property Rights Association (STPRA); the Riverside and Landowners Protection Coalition; the Texas Forestry Association; the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts; and the Texas Land and Mineral Owners Association (TLMA) and brings together more than 400,000 Texans who own more than 50 million acres of private property.