This Couple Was Awarded $2.5 Million Over a Groundwater Dispute

Two pecan farmers have been fighting for years to be able to pump from the Edwards Aquifer.

By Hady Mawajdeh & Laura RiceFebruary 24, 2016 8:56 am

Glenn and JoLynn Bragg  bought their first pecan orchard, which they call “Home Place,” nearly four decades ago. But for the past ten years, they have been involved in nasty lawsuit with the Edwards Aquifer Authority. They regulate groundwater under the Bragg’s orchards – and have denied them the proper permits for water, which the Braggs believe is wrong.

Earlier this week a jury decided that they should be reimbursed for their losses. San Antonio Express-News reporter Brendan Gibbons says regulations on pumping water from the Edwards Aquifer were put in place in 1993 in order to protect endangered species that live in springs and caves that rely on the aquifer for water.

Up until then, the Braggs were able to pump, but when they applied for permits after the regulations went into place, they were denied. The tricky questions here are about groundwater property rights.

“The ability to pump as much groundwater as you need is considered a private property right that comes with the land that you bought,” Gibbons says. “There’s also the ability to regulate that right though, to set limits on how much pumping, to either to protect your neighbors who might also depend on the same aquifer or different users.”

The Medina County court found that the Braggs were entitled to reimbursement for their losses. The case was appealed, but the appeals court in San Antonio also ruled in the Braggs favor. They were awarded $2.5 million.

But Gibbons says lawyers worry that this case could open the door for similar ones.

“A lot of groundwater lawyers and experts have warned about this case, and why it’s been watched so closely,” he says. “This is a question I also brought to the Bragg’s lawyers, he said the sky is not falling and each case is going to be decided on their own details.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.