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Texas Water Rights, Who Owns Them?


In a recent blog post, Texas Farm Bureau Publications Director Mike Barnett asks “who owns Texas water rights?” Is it the groundwater conservation districts (GCD) or the property owner? There does not appear to be one clear-cut answer, but Barnett does weigh the options.

Barnett points out that the current system is confusing. On one hand, Texas law says that the water beneath your land belongs to you. However, groundwater districts control it. The answer to owns it will hopefully be decided this legislative session, as it is a topic that is set to be discussed. Additionally, the Texas Supreme Court is hearing cases that could define the rights of Texas property owners in regard to groundwater.

“Current Texas law recognizes the landowners’ rights to water beneath their property. It also gives groundwater districts the authority to regulate it,” says Barnett. “There are two schools of thought concerning groundwater as a property right in Texas.” The first school of thought says that the groundwater does not belong to the property owner until it is in their possession. This means that GCDs have control over who can drill a well or pump groundwater. The second school of thought gives the land owner rights over the water under their land, protecting the water from being “taken” by GCDs.

Texas Farm Bureau’s policy currently supports the second opinion: “The reasoning is this: Groundwater is part of the surface estate of the property,” explains Barnett. “The owner of the surface estate has a right to the groundwater, just like he has the right to sand, gravel or limestone that is part of the surface estate.”

Read all of Mike Barnett’s blog post on Texas water rights by visiting the Texas Ag Talks blog at

About Texas Farm Bureau:
The Texas Farm Bureau is committed to improving the lives of America’s farmers through advocacy, education and awareness. It is our goal to tell not only members, but the general public, about TFB’s mission and commitment to providing a voice for farmers, ranchers, rural citizens and everyone interested in preserving and protecting this way of life. Learn more about the Texas Farm Bureau on the Web:



 Texas water rights
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