The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that landowners have an ownership interest in the water underneath their land, a decision that will have wide implications on state water management efforts.
In a landmark ruling, the Court said that the government cannot restrict how a landowner consumes the water underneath their property without compensating them.
The case is a victory for a farmer who sued the Edwards Aquifer Authority when it attempted to regulate how he used groundwater so it could be used downstream.
“The Texas Supreme Court decision provides a critical balance between the state and local entities’ authority to conserve this precious resource and the landowner’s right to use it," said Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Texas Farm Bureau. “The ruling recognized the passage of SB 332—Texas Farm Bureau’s priority legislation on groundwater ownership passed in the last legislative session—that says a landowner’s interest in groundwater in place cannot be taken for public use without adequate compensation.”
Environmental groups denounced the decision, saying it would lead to even more lawsuits against government authorities that try to manage groundwater resources.
The issue is especially important in Central Texas, where much of the drinking water supply moves across the state in underground aquifers.