You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Groundwater debate continues
As associations representing more than 400,000 Texans who own millions of acres of private property, we want to stress the importance of SB 332.
For more than a century, groundwater ownership in Texas has seemed clear -- landowners own the groundwater beneath their land.
In the 1904 Texas Supreme Court case of Houston & TC Railway Company v. East, the court said, “The owner of land is the absolute owner of the soil and of percolating water, which is a part of, and not different from, the soil.”
Unfortunately, opponents, including some groundwater conservation districts (GCDs), are trying to muddy the water. These opponents believe that landowners do not own the groundwater below their land. They’ve taken this to court and the Legislature. If they succeed, there is nothing preventing government from owning groundwater.
SB 332, introduced by Sen. Troy Fraser and sponsored by Rep. Allan Ritter, would reaffirm that landowners own the groundwater beneath their land and are entitled to a fair chance to produce it.
During committee meetings in both the Senate and the House, opponents to SB 332 spoke about the fear of GCDs losing authority and of takings lawsuits against GCDs. Both of these claims are false, and here’s why.
Every property right can be regulated. Groundwater is no different. In fact, state law and the Texas Constitution specifically require groundwater to be managed and protected. This is largely accomplished by GCDs. SB 332 doesn’t change this. To be certain that SB 332 does not impact GCDs, their current authority to issue permits to drill wells, enforce the spacing of wells, and limit the amount of groundwater that can be produced from each well is restated in SB 332.
Contrary to what opponents of SB 332 argue, GCDs can still regulate without the fear of losing takings lawsuits. If GCDs are following the law and their rules, they shouldn’t be afraid of takings lawsuits. Cities and other government entities regulate property rights every day without the fear of being sued by landowners. Why would GCDs be any different? Furthermore, a well-established set of legal factors is used by a court to determine what constitutes a taking. SB 332 does not change those factors.
Current Texas law goes even further to protect the interests of GCDs should a takings lawsuit be brought against them. GCDs have a protection under the law that other government entities don’t. If a landowner sues them and loses, they pay the attorney fees of the GCD. That is a one-way protection. If the landowner wins, the GCD doesn’t pay their fees.
It is expensive to sue the government, especially a GCD. That is why there is no “flood” of takings lawsuits. This won’t change if SB 332 becomes law.
In most cases, landowners lose, but it is the only defense they have when government goes too far. If a landowner does not own the groundwater below their land, as the opponents to SB 332 argue, a landowner can’t contest, let alone defend, a taking of their property because they have nothing to protect.
SB 332 will ensure landowners’ ownership interest in groundwater is protected so if government does try to take it, landowners at least have a fighting chance to stop them.
Landowners across the state want their ownership in groundwater below their land protected. They want to conserve their groundwater for future generations, but how can they conserve this precious resource if it is owned and controlled by someone else?
The Senate has passed SB 332 and now it is in the House. It is crucial that every landowner call their state representative and ask them to protect their ownership in groundwater below the land by supporting SB 332.
This information is provided by Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Exotic Wildlife Association, Riverside and Landowners Protection Coalition, South Texans’ Property Rights Association, Texas Association of Dairymen, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Forestry Association, Texas Land and Mineral Owners Association, Texas Poultry Federation, Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Agriculture Today Archives
Bull Classic Dec. 5 (November 25, 2015)
Davidson: Reduce antibiotic use, dispel beef myths (November 25, 2015)
EPA proposes changes to pesticide applicator rules (November 25, 2015)
Farm Bureau responds to beef cancer claims (November 25, 2015)
Hay & Forage Report (November 25, 2015)
Livestock disaster funding available (November 25, 2015)
Livestock Market Reports (November 25, 2015)
Llama competitors shine in state, national shows (November 25, 2015)
Plan to attend grazing lands conference (November 25, 2015)
Plant cool weather veggies (November 25, 2015)
Rancher’s Choice bull sale Dec. 5 (November 25, 2015)
Skills team places sixth (November 25, 2015)
TPWD announces annual trout stocking (November 25, 2015)
All Breed Bull Sale Nov. 21 in Nixon (November 18, 2015)
Clean Water Rule continues to make waves in Congress (November 18, 2015)
Conservation Service: Tips for planting winter pastures (November 18, 2015)
County committee elections begin (November 18, 2015)
Hay & Forage Report (November 18, 2015)
Here’s the beef: Patterson wins FFA national title (November 18, 2015)
Livestock Market Reports (November 18, 2015)
Moczygemba: Angus group CEO (November 18, 2015)
Onion recommendations (November 18, 2015)
A river runs through it: River changes spark border dispute (November 11, 2015)
Cold-sensitive oriental hibiscus (November 11, 2015)
Gov. Abbott: EPA’s Clean Power Plan is ‘power grab’ (November 11, 2015)
Hay & Forage Report (November 11, 2015)
Knowles winner of mule deer hunt package (November 11, 2015)
Letter: A war on Texas: Bureau of Land Management vs. Texas ranchers (November 11, 2015)
Livestock Market Reports (November 11, 2015)
Palo Alto College hosts FFA leadership conference (November 11, 2015)
Rodeo athletes place in Hallettsville contest (November 11, 2015)
‘Old Iron’ club show canceled! (November 11, 2015)
Antique Farm Equipment Demonstration and Field Day, Nov. 14 (November 4, 2015)
Cattlemen’s seminar Nov. 14 in Kosciusko (November 4, 2015)
Hay & Forage Report (November 4, 2015)
Impacts of rural land loss (November 4, 2015)
Livestock Market Reports (November 4, 2015)
Rain can be blessing, curse for farmers (November 4, 2015)
Ranch Rodeo fun in Nixon (November 4, 2015)
Ranching event set for Nov. 11 in Panna Maria (November 4, 2015)
Tips for spraying broccoli, cabbage (November 4, 2015)
Wet winter, spring is good news for hunters (November 4, 2015)
November 2015 Gardening Calendar (November 1, 2015)