Water Case Finds in Favor of Rights Holders, Not State

Private property owners’ rights trump big business, signaling water use precedent in Texas.

By Rhonda FanningApril 6, 2015 9:39 am

More than a third of Texas is still in drought. A year ago, it was two-thirds, so that’s an improvement. Still, nine million people in this state are living in areas with drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. With limited water in Texas,  disputes naturally arise over who has access to it, and how it’s managed.

The latest case involving water rights was decided last week when a Texas appeals court ruled that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality exceeded its authority when exempting cities and power generators from drought restrictions on water allocation.

So what does this mean for water rights holders?

Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune reports, “Upholding a lower court’s ruling, the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi on Thursday ruled that Texas cannot give special treatment to cities or power generators over more senior water rights holders on parched rivers  – even if the state declares it necessary to protect the “public health, safety and welfare.”

This decision will require some cities, power generators or other users, to simply pay for the water they use.

The Texas Farm Bureau, which challenged a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality policy giving cities preferential treatment in certain water squabbles, applauded the ruling.