WATER REGULATION AND CONSERVATION
Recognizing that ownership and access to water is an essential element of property ownership and a property right, STPRA seeks to protect water resources with as little government regulation as possible. Through its actions, STPRA’s board has expressed its position on this issue as related to both ground and surface water. Most recently, STPRA contributed to the joint effort led by TSCRA, TWA, and TFB that resulted in passage of SB 332 that established that ground water below the surface is part of real property ownership.
STPRA contributed to the preparation of an amicus brief for the Texas Wildlife Association supporting a property owner’s right of groundwater ownership in the Day case, in which the Texas Supreme Court basically concurred with that position.
- STPRA generally supports the joint position of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Farm Bureau, and the Texas Wildlife Association, which reads, in part, as follows:
- Groundwater is an integral part of the land and is owned by private landowners. 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.
- As the demand for groundwater in Texas increases, it is important that 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 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 groundwater ownership is needed so groundwater conservation districts are consistent in this interpretation across the state. All groundwater conservation districts must recognize that groundwater is the property of private landowners and use sound scientific principles to develop reasonable regulations that ultimately will ensure the beneficial use of groundwater.
- In regards to surface water, STPRA’s board has passed a resolution opposing expansion of federal jurisdiction through removing the word “navigable” in a revised version of the Clean Water Act. A copy of the board’s resolution is attached and it has been forwarded to federal elected officials.
- STPRA supports keeping the use of brackish water under the control of the Groundwater Conservation Districts.
- STPRA supports the proposed constitutional amendment (SJR1) providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan.
STPRA will continue to advocate for landowner ownership of groundwater and limited regulation of surface water, with any type of water regulation being done as locally as possible. We will continue to educate the public that water conservation will best be done voluntarily by property owners.