In the first few days of the 2011 Texas legislative session, a bill was filed that could affect groundwater availability and the flow of springs and streams throughout the Hill Country.
After much debate an amended version of SB 332 passed the house late in the evening during the final days of the legislative session. An analysis of this controversial legislation including who supports it, who opposes it and what concerns remain can be read here. The bottom line is that precious groundwater resources, below the land are being recognized by the state of Texas as the landowners "real property".
Senate Bill (SB) 332 addresses the significant issue of groundwater rights and groundwater regulation. This is not a simple issue; we all need to look carefully and consider what’s best for rural landowners who become vulnerable when significant water resources are sold and shipped elsewhere. We need to consider what’s best for our region, a unique place blessed with flowing springs and creeks that are often dependent on aquifers, and a region which is experiencing a very high rate of growth in a fragile rural landscape.
The property right individual landowners have to groundwater has a long legal history in Texas and is intimately tied to our state water planning processes and regulatory structure. Because these issues are complicated and nuanced, any change in statutory language could have significant effects on groundwater use, regulation and planning throughout the Hill Country and the rest of Texas. These issues can also be very controversial, especially in a region that relies so heavily on groundwater. Because of the uncertain legal consequences of this proposed legislation, we urge our leadership to be very cautious.
HCA has gathered ideas and resources to help Hill Country citizens understand groundwater rights and SB 332. Click here to read HCA's issue paper regarding the current regulatory environment and the changes SB 332, as introduced, would make. For more information about groundwater resources in the Hill Country click here.
Texas Wildlife Association Testimony on SB 332 and SB667 - Joesph Fitzsimons testimony on SB 332 before the Senate Natural Resource Committee.
The Fallacy of Vested Groundwater Ownership - Bringing science to the SB332 debate, by hydrologists Rene Barker and Raymond Slade, Jr.
Groundwater Call to Action - A GWPC report
Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District - Testimony given March 1, 2011
Coastal Bend GCD Testimony - given March 1, 2011
Rice Producers handout - Reason’s to oppose SB 332
SB 332 bill text
Groundwater Ownership - Issue paper developed by a coalition of organizations pushing SB 332
Ground Water Legislation in the 82nd Texas Legislature - National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club Groundwater position paper
Who owns the Water, A primer on Texas groundwater law and spring flow - An excellent overview written by Ronald Kaiser and published in Texas the State of Springs in 2005
Landowners’ Rights in Texas Groundwater: How and Why Texas Courts Should Determine Landowners Do Not Own Groundwater in Place - Baylor Law Review article by Susana Elena Canseco
Texas Groundwater Issues: Ownership Rights and Regulation 2010 - The perspective of the primary groups advocating for SB 332; Texas Wildlife Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Farm Bureau
Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts position paper for the 82nd Legislature
Environmental Defense Blog, “The Legislature Plunges into the Groundwater Ownership Fray”
South Llano Watershed Alliance - An informational resource on groundwater.
Pecan Valley Groundwater Conservation District
Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District
Region K Resolution on Groundwater Management
Coastal Bend Groundwater Conservation District
Resolution of the Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group - Resolution regarding vested groundwater ownership and sutainable groundwater management.
"The purpose of a district, in my opinion, is to prevent harm that the rule of capture would allow and to try to the best of their ability to create sustainable aquifer production. The goal as much as possible should be one of sustainability." Read more from Livestock Weekly.
“Texas is virtually the only state that functions by the “rule of capture,” which allows landowners to pump essentially unlimited amounts of water. Elsewhere in the U.S., groundwater is a public resource, and the state allows people to use the resource.” Read more from Texas Tribune.
Exactly how (the decision) will change the game is what everyone is trying to figure out. The case clearly established two things. First, that landowners legally own the groundwater underneath their land, and second, that landowners may be owed compensation if state or local regulations go too far in limiting the amount of groundwater landowners can pull. Beyond that things start to get a little murky. Read more from NPR.
Prompted by the severity of the current drought, Texans have been earnestly discussing how to manage the state's water resources for the next several decades to meet the needs of a growing population and dynamic economy. This necessary discussion must now consider last week's ruling on property rights and groundwater by the Texas Supreme Court and how it potentially threatens efforts to regulate and conserve aquifers. The court unanimously ruled Friday that property owners own the water beneath their land just as surely as they own the oil and gas. Read more from Statesman.com.
In a case with potentially vast implications for groundwater rules in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of two farmers in the San Antonio area who challenged the local aquifer authority's sharp restrictions on their use of a water well on their land. Read more from Texas Tribune. More on groundwater planning here.
With the Big Dry upon us, the longstanding fight over the water percolating under the surface in nine major and 20 minor underground aquifers was bound to get contentious before the end of the 82nd legislative session. And it did, at least for a while, because of a single word. Read full Texas Tribune article here.
The Texas Senate concurred with the House version of SB 332, a best attempt to balance what started out known as the “vested rights” legislation. Many fear the bill will generate more lawsuits and financial strain for Groundwater Conservation Districts. Time will tell. “Texas needs to come to grips with the need to manage our groundwater resources on a sustainable basis for future generations. Ultimately a landowner can’t build a fence around a natural resource such as groundwater. It’s a shared resource even if a landowner has certain rights to the use of that resource” Ken Kramer, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, statement here. More on this issue here.
The groundwater bill is closer to becoming a law. The Texas House passed SB 332, which states that a property owner also owns the groundwater beneath their land. Read KUT news report here. Read an analysis of the legislation including who supports it, who opposes it and what concerns remain here.
Texas is suffering from a drought that is throwing our groundwater conservation districts and landowners into crisis. Legislature is poised to pass CSSB 332, which could cripple our groundwater conservation districts' ability to conserve water, preserve and protect the hydrological cycle and come to grips with Texas' recurrent drought conditions. Read more from Statesman.com here.
Texas is suffering from a drought that is throwing our groundwater conservation districts and landowners into crisis. Sadly, our legislature is poised to pass a bill known as CSSB 332 that could cripple or even destroy the groundwater management system previously put into place. Read more
A controversial groundwater bill before state representatives late Tuesday either promised the calamitous end of groundwater regulation or simply stated the obvious. Read full Lubbock Online article here.
"Water is a finite resource. It is the most precious resource that this state is charged with conserving," said Ritter, the committee chairman, as he introduced the bill. Read the full Texas Tribune article here.
A state custom that gives landowners the rights to groundwater beneath their land still sparks controversy more than a century after its inception. Read the full Houston Chronical article here.
"The legislation appears to be a step away from the comprehensive water planning procedures that lawmakers have been working on for the last 20 years." Read the SA Express-News editorial here.
The Texas Senate approved a bill Yesterday that would establish groundwater as a vested right protected by the state Constitution. For the bill's sponsor, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, its passage is a clarification of state law and an assurance to landowners that they have the right to the water below their property. For groundwater and subsidence districts across the state, the bill, approved 28-3, is a threat to the management of one of the state's most limited resources. Read full SA Express-News article here.
The Texas Senate passed a much-discussed piece of groundwater legislation, voting 28-3 to approve a bill stating that landowners in the state have a "vested ownership interest" in the groundwater beneath their land...Texas Tribune report.
More on Hill Country Groundwater.
The Texas Senate reaffirmed Wednesday the rule of capture, a century-old state custom that says landowners have a right to groundwater underneath their land. Read the full Star-Telegram article here.
KUT covered the story yesterday, “It’s a critical time for groundwater districts right now”. Read or listen to the story here. Sierra Club released a statement today still opposing the bill, “The Legislature would be subjecting virtually every action by a groundwater district to a potential “takings” claim. Full media release - For history and resources about SB 332 click here.
Read the Texas Tribune article here.
Read the Texas Observer article here.
Read the Warton Journal Spectator article here.
Read the article from the Bastrop Adviser here.
Read the article from Bastrop Adviser here.
Read the North Texas E-News article here.
Read the Statesman.com article here.
Read article from Star-Telegram.com here.
Read article from the Smithville Times here.
Read a letter to the editor written by Mike Organ, President of the Bastrop-Lee County Farm Bureau here.
“Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.” Read more from the Washington Post. Now California lawmakers are overhauling the state's longstanding "pump-as-you-please" groundwater policy under a package of bills lawmakers recently sent Gov. Jerry Brown. Read about California’s new groundwater rules in the Fort Worth Star Telegram here.
Open to youth ages 8-18, the Picture Your World weekend workshops teach photographic composition and technique through hands-on demonstration, and constructive critique. Participants will produce a visual memory of their day and begin a creative portfolio while experiencing the wonders of the natural environment. Learn more
Fredericksburg SHINES (FBG SHINES), a local organization dedicated to educating the public about sustainable living, will host their second annual Fredericksburg fall tour of homes to spotlight local examples of sustainable, green-living practices. Learn more
The population of Travis County is expected to grow 50% by 2035 for a total of 1,500,000 people. Planning for growth outside of the city limits is critical for the county to continue to thrive in a sustainable manner. As such, Travis County needs your feedback to ensure the County's first comprehensive, long-range Land Water and Transportation Plan reflects local values and priorities. Click here to learn how you can help Travis County plan for future growth.
Hill Country preservationists are calling on state officials to act after Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest truck stop operator and diesel fuel retailer, broke ground on an environmentally sensitive site in Junction only a few hundred yards from the banks of the North Fork of the Llano River. Read more from the Rivard Report.
A landowner workshop has been planned for all interested in, or potentially impacted by, the proposed substation and transmission line planned for the Blumenthal area, September 6 near Fredericksburg. Learn more
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has withdrawn its June 2014 proposed rule change that would have allowed billboards along federal highways to be taller. After receiving public comments from more than 900 Texans and 15 organizations in opposition to taller billboards, the agency advised today it is removing the item from consideration on the August 28 Texas Transportation Commission agenda. Learn more
Efforts to limit the nighttime glow in and around Fredericksburg were buoyed this month as the council approved an outdoor lighting standards ordinance, which will primarily affect new residential and commercial development. A complete draft of the ordinance can be found on the city’s website, www.fbgtx.org. Learn about Hill Country attorney-astronomer, HCA Night Sky team member Ken Kattner who records skies from home observatory and advocates for proper lighting in the Hill Country here.
SAWS presented plans for a 142 mile pipeline from Burleson County to San Antonio at a recent community forum at UTSA. Learn more and watch a video from SAWS news here. While the plan promises 50,000 acre feet of non-Edwards water annually, a Texas Public Radio segment points out that perhaps not enough questions have been raised. Are there consequences related to costs to the community and impacts on San Antonio’s conservation ethic worth exploring? Click here to read and listen to “The Source: Some Critique On A SAWS, Vista Ridge Deal." Decisions will be made by SAWS in September and SA City Council could take this up in October.
“Innovative Strategies and Hard Choices for a Secure Future” will be moderated by Robert Rivard and hosted at the Historic Pearl Stable in San Antonio. A stellar line-up of speakers includes: Berto Guerra, Bill West, Andy Sansom and Karen Guz. Learn more and mark your calendar today.
“The routes will connect destinations beyond Dripping Springs and will take advantage of opportunities to reach the proposed Violet Crown Trail and other regional trails and parks planned for Central Texas.” Read more and get involved. The City of Dripping Springs is soliciting input.
Look to the sky for your water supply—and learn how to capture and use it at the fifth annual Rainwater Revival, which returns to Dripping Springs on October 25. The popular and free edu-fest event is put on by the Hill Country Alliance. “We began our part-educational, part-fun fest in Dripping Springs in 2010, and after two years there we took the event on the road to other parts of the Hill Country,” said Event Chair Karen Ford. “We’re happy to be coming ‘home’ to share the latest information about rainwater conservation and harvesting at Dripping Springs Ranch Park. Learn more
“The population growth has had some obvious impacts, For one, there are a lot more straws, big and small, taking from the groundwater supply.” David K. Langford tells the audience at a recent private lands summit hosted by the Texas Wildlife Association. Read more from Livestock Weekly.
The Native Plant Society of Texas Native Landscape Certification Program is a series of courses that teaches best practices for native plant landscape and habitat preservation. Targeted audiences are homeowners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape architects, architects, landscape designers and nurserymen, Master Naturalists, teachers, citizens, Master Gardeners, engineers, and more. Learn more and register.
Depending on whom you ask, San Antonio might either be on the cusp of securing its water future at a relatively low cost, or it is pinning most of its hopes on a multibillion-dollar boondoggle that could diminish the water supply for fast-growing Central Texas and wouldn’t deliver what San Antonio expects. Read more from the Texas Tribune
“It’s through photographs like these that we help share the importance of protecting our Hill Country environment, and one of the reasons our calendar has been so popular with both area residents and nature lovers worldwide,” said Milan J. Michalec, board president of HCA. Read More
September 6 in Fredericksburg - HCA Landowner Workshop: Discussion of the Blumenthal Substation and Transmission Line - Details
Sepbember 8-12 in Austin - 6th International Workshop on Catchment Hydrological Modeling and Data Assimilation - Details
September 9 in Kerrville - “Drought Impact in Kerr County & How to Improve Our River’s Health” by Tara Bushnoe, UGRA’s Natural Resource Coordinator, at the Riverside Nature Center - Details
September 11 in Wimberley - Community Water Meeting, hosted by CARD - Details
September 12 in Kendalia - 2014 New Landowner Series: Wildlife and Range Management, Brush Work and Sculpting - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details
September 20 in Fredericksburg - Fredericksburg Shines 2nd Annual Sustainability Green Homes Tour - Details
September 22 in Kerrville - Monthly meeting of the Texas Master Naturalists - Topic: Hill Country Land Trusts, Speaker: Bill Lindemann, Vice President of Hill Country Land Trust - Details
September 26-28 in Belton - Renewable Energy Roundup - Details
September 27-28 in Boerne - Texas Hydro-Geo Workshop - Details
September 28 in Austin - 7th Annual Celebration of Children in Nature - Hosted by The Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin and the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center - Details
See more upcoming events
HCA's 2015 Calendar is coming soon! Check back for availability.
Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape
Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.
HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool