Groundwater Ownership in Texas
Groundwater is an integral part of the land, and private landowners have a vested ownership interest in the groundwater below the surface of their land. The Texas Constitution and more than 100 years of case law support this position. Secure, protectable property rights best assure conservation and stewardship of all resources, including groundwater. Not only does this provide the landowner a right to produce, but it ensures the ability to conserve groundwater if there is no rush to produce under the threat of losing it.
As the demand for groundwater in Texas increases, it is important that the landowner’s ownership interest in groundwater continues to be recognized and reaffirmed as vested, real property of private landowners. Private landowners and their productive open land are keys to an effectively functioning water cycle. Their active and informed stewardship of land and water resources benefits all Texans.
Like all other private property in Texas, groundwater is subject to reasonable regulation. This ensures that private landowners are treated fairly (afforded due process), property rights are respected, and that all private landowners maintain the ability to use groundwater for any beneficial use. Just as it makes sense for school districts to be governed by local citizens, it makes sense for groundwater to be governed by local citizens, which is why we support local groundwater conservation districts. It is better and more effective for private landowners to work with their neighbors, rather than a distant state agency.
However, for groundwater conservation districts to function as they were intended, recognition and reaffirmation of the landowner’s real property interest in groundwater is needed so groundwater conservation districts are consistent in this interpretation across the state. All groundwater conservation districts must recognize that private landowners have an ownership interest in the groundwater below the surface of their land and use sound scientific principles to develop reasonable regulations that ultimately will ensure the beneficial use of groundwater.
TWA supports protecting and reaffirming that private landowners have a vested, real property interest in groundwater below the surface for the following reasons:
State law and case law is clear that private landowner have a vested, real property interest in groundwater below the surface, but some continue to challenge the law. Private landowners must defend and reaffirm their ownership of this property and all constitutionally mandated private property rights in the regulatory, legal, and legislative arenas to protect the resource for the benefit of all.
The private landowner ownership interest in groundwater encourages good stewardship and promotes accountability. The way private landowners, acting as land stewards, manage their property directly influences quantity and quality of groundwater available to all Texans. Vested ownership with local control also equitably balances conservation and use.
A private landowner ownership interest in groundwater provides more certainty and balance in water planning. With the groundwater ownership interest reaffirmed, water planners can concentrate on how best to use groundwater to meet the state’s critical needs instead of arguing about who owns it. This helps balance rural water-producing areas and urban water-consuming areas, without jeopardizing potential growth in any area of the state. Recognition of all landowners’ rights ensures that the value of available groundwater resources is shared by all property owners, not just a select few.
TWA is fighting for your private property rights everyday. Learn more in the video below.