Surface Water Permits & Rights in Texas
Texas’ population is expected to grow by 82% between 2010 and 2060—from 25.4 million to 46.3 million people. Our water supply, however, is not expected to keep up. In light of scarcity, water rights become essential, as this limited resource must be distributed to demands according to some set of priorities.
At McPherson Law Firm PLLC, we take scarcity very seriously. Our attorney utilizes a powerful combination of legal training, real estate experience, environmental regulation knowledge, and business management skills to provide clients with effective counsel and representation.
If you are concerned about your surface water rights or you need assistance with obtaining a permit, we have the skills needed to help you accomplish your goals.
Basics of Texas Water Supply Rights
Surface water (rivers, creeks, ponds, and natural lakes) supplies 40% of Texas’ water demands. Unlike groundwater, it is owned by the State of Texas and held in trust for its residents.
To use surface water, or to impound surface water into a reservoir, one must obtain an “appropriated” or “permitted” surface water right. These programs are generally managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Senior Water Rights in Texas
Although Texas has approximately 6.3 million acre-feet of annual surface water supply, it has permitted over 20 million acre-feet of annual surface water. Among permitted rights, Texas generally follows the “first in time, first in right” rule.
Therefore, some people with “paper” water rights don’t have “wet” water to match. To allocate scarce wet water to paper water rights, one must compare and prioritize all water rights that exist in the same river basin. This can be a very challenging task.
Making a call on a senior water right is the means by which landowners protect and assert their rights in surface water. If a downstream resident is a senior water right-holder, for example, they can require a junior right-holder upstream to release a sufficient volume of water to satisfy the senior water right-holder.
If the downstream resident is a junior water right-holder, they have no ability to force an upstream senior right-holder to release any water to the junior right-holder.
One important exception to the “first in time” rule covers water used by landowners for their “domestic and livestock” (D&L) uses. The D&L water right is one of the most senior rights in surface water, generally without regard to when the landowner begins that use.
Key issues involved in filing a senior water right call include:
- Developing a model to reliably estimate your total water use if you are not metering your water supply
- Independently verifying the TCEQ’s conclusions on the relative priority of water rights in the relevant basin
- Considering the effect of new environmental flow requirements on the surface water resource
At McPherson Law Firm PLLC, we have decades of experience helping clients understand Texas surface water rights, file permits or senior water rights, and defend their claims against infringements. We look forward to providing these high-quality services for you and your property or business.
Your Rights Amidst Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) is the process of extracting gas or oil from fissures by forcing liquid into subterranean materials.
While this process is part of a highly lucrative industry, many are concerned about the effects of fracking on freshwater supply. If businesses don’t take proper precautions with the exact location of fracking and its proximity to water supplies, the result may be severe contamination.
Whether you have been accused of contaminating surface water, or you are concerned that a fracking process has affected your supply, we can represent you in a court of law with steadfast dedication to your financial interests and long-term health.