An Overview on the Basics of Water Law

So you’ve finally bought a dream home out in the Texas country with plenty of room. There’s enough distance from the city so that noise, traffic and crowded areas are now distant memories. Owning a house outside of the city means making some adjustments, with the largest possibly being dealing with water. Do you know your rights as a landowner and how this will affect the water you consume?

If you need legal help with your water rights, then contact the McAllen lawyers of Fryer and Hansen for more information.

What You Should Know

Groundwater fills underground aquifer saturation zones and can be found almost anywhere in the state. Sizes and levels of groundwater can depend on heavy rains, melted snow and heavy pumping. In some parts of the world, groundwater is consumed at a faster speed compared to its ability to replenish. In other cases, human activities can pollute groundwater, making it undrinkable.

In Texas, groundwater generally belongs to whoever owns the land it’s located on. The rule of capture grants landowners the right to extract this water. Landowners do not technically own the water, but can extract as much as they want, regardless of the effects of neighboring wells. But, neighbors can possibly pump out that same water since it could come from the same source. Because of this, a person or party with a larger pump can make groundwater run dry with no consequences.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are five exceptions to the law where a Texas landowner can take legal action against another party for interfering with their groundwater and/or groundwater rights:

  1. If a neighboring landowner trespasses to remove water either by drilling a well directly on the property or by drilling a “slant” well on an adjoining property so that it crosses the subterranean property line, then the affected landowner can sue.
  2. There is malicious conduct in pumping water for the sole purpose of injuring a neighboring landowner.
  3. A landowner wastes well water by allowing it to run off of their land or allowing it to go back to the water table.
  4. There’s contamination in a landowner’s well from another party. No one is allowed to pollute groundwater.
  5. Movement or damage caused to a landowner’s property as a result of negligent over-pumping from neighboring lands is proven to have occurred.

Rivers and Streams

The State of Texas excludes subterranean streams and rivers from groundwater laws. Texas courts have ruled these bodies of water to be part of either:

Riparian DoctrineBased on English common law, it states that water rights are controlled by the property owner that borders the affected area. The right to use that water is allowed as long as it is reasonable.

Prior Appropriation Doctrine – This doctrine is a more applicable statute complying with the dry conditions of the state. In 1967, the Water Rights Adjudication Act was passed by Texas Legislature. The law declares that any person using water for purposes other than livestock or domestic use must file a claim for the right to use it with the Texas Water Rights Commission.

Let Us Help You

Water laws in Texas can be complex, but fortunately, our lawyers understand them and are able to work through them. Our attorneys are routinely needed to assist with real estate developments and government entities concerning water rights, so if you feel that our services are best for you, then contact us in McAllen today.

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