Management of Groundwater in Texas
Jace A. Houston
Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District, 1660 West Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, TX 77546-2640
Texans do not like regulation. And when it comes to groundwater, that statement is a vast understatement. The history and development of groundwater management in Texas is a perfect example of the careful balance that policy makers must strike between the need to manage a natural resource for the benefit of the public and the individual rights and interests of citizens. In 1904, Texas courts declared that they would stay out of groundwater regulation by adopting a legal doctrine called the “rule of capture,” which states that landowners are entitled to pump as much groundwater as they choose without legal liability for any harm that may result to neighboring landowners. In 1917, the citizens of Texas adopted a constitutional amendment that vested the legislature with the responsibility for preserving and protecting the state’s natural resources and authorized the legislature to create locally-controlled districts to achieve those ends.
Ultimately the legislature determined that the preferred method for managing groundwater while respecting the individual rights of landowners was to allow the management to take place at the local level within certain broad statutory guidelines. The first groundwater conservation district was created in 1951, and over time, more and more Texas communities sensed the need to take an active role in managing and conserving their local groundwater resources, and this resulted in the creation of over 85 groundwater conservation districts covering over 140 counties across the state.
The increased presence and management activity of local groundwater districts emphasizes the need for districts and other professionals in water-related industries to work together and communicate effectively. The purpose of this presentation is to familiarize the audience with groundwater conservation districts in Texas and with the powers and responsibilities of districts. In addition, the presentation will address some of the modeling, data collection, and other technical functions of districts and discuss how that information impacts a district's regulatory decisions.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90032©2004 GCAGS 54th Annual Convention, San Antonio, Texas, October 10-12, 2004