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Protecting our most precious resource - Water

 

LEARN ABOUT GROUNDWATER

Click on one of the following topics to learn more about groundwater and aquifers.

 
Groundwater Basics
Water Facts
Fayette County Aquifers
Glossary of Water Terms 
Water Rights Leasing 
Fun pages for kids and educators

 



Groundwater Basics


What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is simply water that exists below the earth's surface.  

groundwater screen shot

Groundwater is often thought of as an underground river or lake.  Only in caves or within lava flows does groundwater occur this way.  Instead, groundwater is usually held in porous soil or rock materials, much the same way water is held in a sponge.

When rain falls to the ground, the water does not stop moving. Some of it flows along the surface in streams or lakes, some of it is used by plants, some evaporates and returns to the atmosphere, and some sinks into the ground. Groundwater is water that is found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rocks. The area where water fills these spaces is called the saturated zone. The top of this zone is called the water table. The water table may be only a foot below the ground's surface or it may be hundreds of feet down.

Groundwater can be found almost everywhere. The water table may be deep or shallow and may rise or fall depending on many factors. Heavy rains or melting snow may cause the water table to rise or an extended period of dry weather may cause the water table to fall.  Groundwater is stored in, and moves slowly through, layers of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers. The speed at which groundwater flows depends on the size of the spaces in the soil or rock and how well the spaces are connected.

 

Hydrologic Cycle    © The Groundwater Foundation 


From the time the earth was formed, water has been endlessly circulating. This circulation is known as the hydrologic cycle. Groundwater is part of this continuous cycle as water evaporates, forms clouds, and returns to earth as precipitation.

Water Cycle

Surface water is evaporated from the earth by the energy of the sun. The water vapor forms clouds in the sky. Depending on the temperature and weather conditions, the water vapor condenses and falls to the earth as different types of precipitation. Some precipitation runs from high areas to low areas on the earth's surface. This is known as surface runoff. Other precipitation seeps into the ground and is stored as groundwater.

Think of groundwater as water that fills the spaces between rocks and soil particles underground, in much the same way as water fills a sponge. Groundwater begins as precipitation and soaks into the ground where it is stored in underground geological water systems called aquifers. Sometimes groundwater feeds springs, lakes, and other surface waters or is drawn out of the ground by humans. The water then can evaporate, form clouds, and return to the earth to begin the cycle over again.

 


What is an Aquifer?

Although groundwater exists everywhere under the ground, some parts of the saturated zone contain more water than others. An aquifer is an underground formation of permeable rock or loose material which can produce useful quantities of water when tapped by a well. Aquifers come in all sizes. They may be small, only a few hectares in area, or very large, underlying thousands of square kilometers of the earth's surface. They may be only a few meters thick, or they may measure hundreds of meters from top to bottom.

Aquifer

It is a common misconception that groundwater is found in underground rivers like those that form limestone caverns. In fact, groundwater is more like the water in a sponge, held within the tiny pores of the surrounding aquifer material. Much like the flow of water in a river, however, the flow of groundwater is subject to gravity and is almost always in motion, flowing from areas of higher elevation to areas of lower elevation. (In the case of groundwater in confined aquifers, it is pressure rather than gravity that makes water move. In this case, water flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.) Just like what happens when a sponge soaked with water is tilted, gravity forces water to flow from one pore space or fracture to another. The steeper the gradient or slope, the faster the groundwater will flow. It is important to note that the rate of groundwater flow, especially in confined systems, is very slow compared to the flow of water on the surface. It is typically in the range of several inches per year to several feet per year. For water to move freely through a rock, the pores and/or fractures must be large enough and connected enough so that the friction from the water moving past the rock particle does not impede the flow. The degree of an aquifer''s porosity and permeability is key to the movement of groundwater through an aquifer.  

In the above diagram, you can see how the ground below the water table (the blue area) is saturated with water. The "unsaturated zone" above the water table (the greenish area) still contains water (after all, plants' roots live in this area), but it is not totally saturated with water. You can see this in the two drawings at the bottom of the diagram, which show a close-up of how water is stored in between underground rock particles.

 

How Aquifers are Replenished


Recharge is the process by which aquifers are replenished with water from the surface. This process occurs naturally as part of the hydrologic cycle as infiltration when rainfall infiltrates the land surface and as percolation of water into underlying aquifers. A number of factors influence the rate of recharge including physical characteristics of the soil, plant cover, slope, water content of surface materials, rainfall intensity, and the presence and depth of confining layers and aquifers.

Surface water bodies may also recharge groundwater. This occurs most often in arid areas. Lakes and dry creek beds may fill up with water during heavy rains. If the water table is low in underlying aquifers, water may seep from the sides of these water bodies and percolate into the groundwater.

In some places, artificial recharge is used to replenish aquifers. This is accomplished through the pumping, or injection, of water into wells where it replenishes the aquifer directly or through the spreading of water over the land surface where it can seep into the ground. Artificial recharge is done to replenish the groundwater supply when rains are heavy in order to preserve water for later use or, in the case of injection wells, to dilute or control the flow of contaminated groundwater.

 

Wells and Groundwater


Groundwater is withdrawn from wells to provide water for everything from drinking water for the home and business to water to irrigate crops to industrial processing water. When water is pumped from the ground, the dynamics of groundwater flow change in response to this withdrawal.

When a well is installed in an unconfined aquifer, water moves from the aquifer into the well through small holes or slits in the well casing or, in some types of wells, through the open bottom of the well. The level of the water in the well is the same as the water level in the aquifer. Groundwater continues to flow through and around the well in one direction in response to gravity. 

When pumping begins, water begins to flow towards the well in contrast to the natural direction of groundwater movement. In response, the water level in the well falls below the water table in the surrounding aquifer. As a result, water begins to move from the aquifer into the well. As pumping continues, the water level in the well continues to increase until the rate of flow into the well equals the rate of withdrawal from pumping. The movement of water from an aquifer into a well results in the formation of a cone of depression. The cone of depression describes a three-dimensional inverted cone surrounding the well that represents the volume of water removed as a result of pumping.  Drawdown is the vertical drop in the height between the water level in the well prior to pumping and the water level in the well during pumping.

Cone of depression


The cones will expand until they encounter a recharge source equal to the discharge rate. If the cone does not encounter a recharge source, it will continue to expand until it encounters the cone of depression of another pumping well, and may combine with it to form a large, regional cone of depression in the water table. When the cone of one well overlaps the cone of another, interference occurs and an additional lowering of water levels occurs as the wells compete for water by expanding their cones of depression. The amount or extent of interference between cones of depression depends on the rate of pumping from each well, the spacing between wells, and the hydraulic characteristics of the aquifer in which the wells are completed. 

As pictured below, if the wells are not spaced or sized appropriately, one well can cause neighboring wells to run dry.   The picture below illustrates the result of interference between two wells' cones of depression.

In order to prevent a well on one tract of land from interfering with the production of a well on adjoining property, the District has established rules concerning the minimum spacing of a well from the nearest property line as well as the distance between wells. The goal of the district is that the cone of depression formed by a well does not exceed the size of the well owner’s property and therefore will limit interference with neighboring wells.



Cone interference


Knowledge of the drawdown helps to ensure a continuous supply of water.  Drawdown that reaches to the bottom of an aquifer could result in a "dry well." 

Knowledge of the lateral, or sideways, extent of the cone of depression helps in identifying the overlying land area to be managed for groundwater protection. A spill, for example, occurring in this area could percolate into the groundwater and be "pulled in" by the pumping of the well. 

Pumping can result in a change of the groundwater's source. For example, water that was once discharging into a stream may now be "pulled in" to the well. Surface water quality generally is more apt to be contaminated; in addition, the regulatory and monitoring standards for drinking water originating from surface water bodies are often different than those originating from groundwater sources. 


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Water Facts


Where Is Earth's Water?

Where is Earth's water located, and in what forms does it take?  About 97 percent of all water is in the oceans.  Notice in the chart below how the amount of water in rivers in only about 300 cubic miles - representing about 1/ 10,000th of one percent of all Earth's water.  Yet, rivers are the source of most of the water we use every day.  Also notice that groundwater is barely more than 1/2 percent of all the water on the planet.

Water source

Water volume, in
cubic miles

Percent of
total water

Oceans
317,000,000
97.24%
Icecaps, Glaciers
7,000,000
2.14%
Ground water
2,000,000
0.61%
Fresh-water lakes
30,000
0.009%
Inland seas
25,000
0.008%
Soil moisture
16,000
0.005%
Atmosphere
3,100
0.001%
Rivers
300
0.0001%
Total water volume
326,000,000
100%

Source: Nace, U.S. Geological Survey, 1967 and The Hydrologic Cycle (Pamphlet), U.S. Geological Survey, 1984



How Much of Earth's Water is Usable By Humans?


Usable water Graph


The pie chart on the left shows that over 99 percent of all water (oceans, seas, ice, and atmosphere) is not available for our uses. And even of the remaining 0.3 percent (the small brown slice in the top pie chart), much of that is out of reach. Considering that most of the water we use in everyday life comes from rivers (the small light blue slice in the pie chart on the right), you'll see we generally only make use of a tiny portion of the available water supplies. The right-side pie shows that the vast majority of the fresh water available for our uses is stored in the ground (the large brown slice in the second pie chart). 


How Much Do We Depend On Groundwater? 


According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) figures, groundwater provides an estimated: 

  • 22% of all freshwater withdrawals

  • 37% of agricultural use (mostly for irrigation)

  • 37% of the public water supply withdrawals

  • 51% of all drinking water for the total population

  • 99% of drinking water for the rural population


What are Fayette County's Needs?


ØBy the year 2010, Fayette County’s water demands are projected to be: 

  • 4,000 acre-feet for municipal needs

  • 205 acre-feet for manufacturing 

  • 36,000 acre-feet for steam / electric 

  • 40 acre-feet for mining 

  • 750 acre-feet for irrigation

  • 2,400 acre-feet for livestock

For a total of 43,395 acre- feet.

One acre- foot, the volume of water necessary to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot, is equal to 325,851 gallons.


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Fayette County Aquifers


Fayette County is situated above two major aquifers, and several minor aquifers.  The two major aquifers are the Carrizo-Wilcox, which covers the western half of the county, and the Gulf Coast, which covers the eastern half of the county.  Both aquifers are quite large, extending under many other counties as well.

 
Fayette County Major Aquifers The Gulf Coast aquifer is shown in yellow, the Carrizo Wilcox is shown in the red stripes.  If you look at the map of the major aquifers in Texas, from which this snapshot is taken, you will see how large both aquifers really are.

The Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer is about 6 to 8 miles wide.  The top of this aquifer in Fayette County is about 500 feet below sea level in the southwestern part of the county, and about 5,000 feet below sea level in the northeastern part of the county.

The Gulf Coast aquifer extends inland approximately 100 to 150 miles from the Gulf of Mexico in a line approximately parallel to the Texas Gulf Coast. 

It is estimated that both of these aquifers have little or no recharge in Fayette County.  

Below is a conceptual model of the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer, showing a hydrostratigraphic cross section with recharge and groundwater movement.

Carrizo Wilcox aquifer recharge

Only a handful of wells in Fayette County are known to be drawing from these aquifers at present, due to their depths.  However, these same aquifers are being drawn from heavily by other cities outside of Fayette County.  The Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer is the proposed source of water for the "I-35 Corridor" project for Austin, for example.  

This is one of the reasons why it is imperative that the District conducts the well inventory (well registration) that is currently underway.  The District must get an accurate understanding of how many wells are withdrawing from each of the aquifers in Fayette County, and how much water is needed/produced by each well.

Fayette County Minor Aquifers Legend

 

Minor aquifers in Fayette County include the Yegua- Jackson, Sparta, and Queen City. 

The Queen City crops out in a narrow band approximately 3 to 5 miles in width and roughly parallel to the Bastrop-Fayette County line. In Fayette County, this formation downdips at a rate of approximately 150 feet per mile from east to west.  The formation's altitude ranges from 10 feet above mean sea level near the intersection of Buckner's Creek and Highway 95 to approximately 4,000 feet below mean sea level near Fayetteville.  Water quality from this formation is adequate for municipal and domestic purposes.  Fresh to slightly saline water is available west of a line from Flatonia to Ledbetter.  Very few wells in Fayette County tap this aquifer.

The Sparta crops out in Bastrop and Lee counties in a very narrow band approximately 1 to 2 miles wide and along a line approximately parallel to the Bastrop-Fayette County line.  The formation downdips approximately 175 feet per mile from the southwestern to the northeastern parts of the County.  Water quality from this formation is acceptable for municipal and domestic purposes although hardness and total dissolved solids concentrations approach the Texas Department of Health's recommended limits in some locations.  Fresh to slightly saline water is available west of a line from just west of Carmine to Flatonia.   Only a small number of wells are known to be producing from this formation.

The Yegua-Jackson aquifer extends in a narrow band from the Rio Grande and Mexico across the State to the Sabine River and Louisiana. Although the occurrence, quality, and quantity of water from this aquifer are erratic, domestic and livestock supplies are available from shallow wells over most of its extent. Locally water for municipal, industrial, and irrigation purposes is available. Yields of most wells are small, less than 50 gallons per minute, but in some areas, yields of adequately constructed wells may range to more than 500 gallons per minute. The Yegua-Jackson aquifer consists of complex associations of sand, silt, and clay deposited during the Tertiary Period. Net freshwater sands are generally less than 200 feet deep at any location within the aquifer. Water quality varies greatly within the aquifer, and shallow occurrences of poor-quality water are not uncommon. In general, however, small to moderate amounts of usable quality water can be found within shallow sands (less than 300 feet deep) over much of the Yegua-Jackson aquifer.

The following geologic maps show a cross section of the aquifers in Fayette County.  (Click on the thumbnail picture to enlarge.)

 
figure15.JPG (104784 bytes) figure16.JPG (99470 bytes) figure17.JPG (94606 bytes)



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Glossary


Acre-Foot

the volume of water covering one acre when the water is one foot deep. One acre-foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons.

Aquifer A geologic formation that stores water, aquifers may yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs and this water is often utilized as a primary source for municipal, industrial, irrigation and other uses.
Cone of Depression the shape of the water table in the area immediately surrounding a pumping well. The water draws down in a radial cone-shape around the pumping well, with the deepest drawdown immediately at the well, tapering off with distance from the pumping well.
Confined Aquifer an aquifer which is overlain by a confining bed (aquitard) of significantly lower hydraulic conductivity which retards the vertical movement of water.
Discharge the release or extraction of water from an aquifer. Typical mechanisms of natural discharge are evapotranspiration by phreatophytes, springs, and drains to surface water bodies. Pumping is a man-caused discharge.
Consumptive Use The quantity of water absorbed by the crop and transpired or used directly in the building of plant tissue together with that evaporated from the cropped area.  The quantity of water transpired and evaporated from a cropped area or the normal loss of water from the soil by evaporation and plant transpiration.
Consumptive Waste The water that returns to the atmosphere without benefiting man.
Depletion The progressive withdrawal of water from surface- or ground-water reservoirs at a rate greater than that of replenishment.
Diversion The taking of water from a stream or other body of water into a canal, pipe, or other conduit.
Drawdown

(1) The act, process, or result of depleting, as a liquid or body of water as in the lowering of the water surface level due to release of water from a reservoir. (2) The magnitude of lowering of the surface of a body of water or of its piezometric surface as a result of withdrawal of the release of water therefrom. (3) The decline of water below the static level during pumping. (4) (Water Table) The lowering of the elevation of the Groundwater Table, usually from pumping wells, but can occur naturally during periods of prolonged drought. At the well, it is the vertical distance between the static and the pumping level.

Drought A period of deficient precipitation or runoff extending over an indefinite number of days, but with no set standard by which to determine the amount of deficiency needed to constitute a drought. Thus, there is no universally accepted quantitative definition of drought; generally, each investigator establishes his own definition.
Evapotranspiration loss of water due to the combined effects of evaporation and plant transpiration.
Groundwater Water in the ground that is in the zone of saturation from which wells, springs, and groundwater run-off are supplied.
Hydrograph a graph showing changes in flow or stage of a stream, river or lake over time.
Hydrologic Cycle The circulation of water from the sea, through the atmosphere, to the land; and thence, with many delays, back to the sea by overland and subterranean routes, and in part by way of the atmosphere; also the many short circuits of the water that is returned to the atmosphere without reaching the sea.
Hydrology The science encompassing the behavior of water as it occurs in the atmosphere, on the surface of the ground, and underground.
Mining (of an Aquifer)

Withdrawal over a period of time of ground water that exceeds the rate of recharge of the aquifer. 

Percolation The movement, under hydrostatic pressure, of water through the interstices of a rock or soil, except the movement through large openings such as caves.
Piezometry The measurement of the compressibility of liquids.
Recharge mechanisms of inflow to the aquifer. Typical sources of recharge are precipitation, applied irrigation water, underflow from tributary basins and seepage from surface water bodies.
Saturated Thickness the saturated depth of an aquifer. For a confined aquifer, the saturated thickness at any point in the aquifer is equal to the aquifer thickness. For an unconfined aquifer, the saturated thickness at any point is the distance from the top of the water table to the bottom of the aquifer. As aquifer recharge and discharge conditions vary in an unconfined aquifer, the saturated thickness will change.
Storativity the volume of water an aquifer released from an aquifer per unit surface area of the aquifer and per unit change in head.
Transmissivity the rate of flow of water through a vertical strip of aquifer which is one unit wide and which extends the full saturated depth of the aquifer.
Unconfined Aquifer an aquifer that is not under pressure.
Watershed The divide separating one drainage basin from another and in the past has been generally used to convey this meaning. However, over the years, use of the term to signify drainage basin or catchment area has come to predominate, although drainage basin is preferred. Drainage divide, or just divide, is used to denote the boundary between one drainage area and another. Used alone, the term "watershed" is ambiguous and should not be used unless the intended meaning is made clear.
Water Table the elevation of the water in an unconfined aquifer.
Zone of Saturation The zone in which the functional permeable rocks are saturated with water under hydrostatic pressure.  Water in the zone of saturation will flow into a well, and is called groundwater.
100 Year Flood

 

a flood so large it has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. The term "100-year" is a measure of the size of the flood, not how often it occurs. Several 100-year floods can occur within the same year or within a few short years. 


Definitions provide by U.S. Geological Survey.


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Water Rights Leasing

[Excerpts from the Texas Water Development Board's publication "A Texan’s Guide To Water and Water Rights Marketing".]

Fresh water supply is said to be the next global crisis. With increasing populations, demand for water is beginning to exceed developed water supply. This is particularly true in the western United States, which at the beginning of the 21st Century contains seven of its fastest growing states, including Texas. If present trends continue, populations in the western United States will increase by more than 30 percent by 2020, and in Texas the population will almost double by 2050. Meanwhile, there has been no significant increase in available water supplies in Texas since the "dam building era" ended in the early 1980s. As a result, municipal water shortages are developing at a dramatic rate.

Water has been the basis for municipal, agricultural, and industrial development in Texas from the Spanish Colonial period to the present. This precious resource will continue to shape, contour, and define the Lone Star State. As we embark upon the 21st Century, the challenge for Texas is to provide water to a growing population and economy in the face of increasingly limited supplies and a need to protect our natural resources. The following key findings in the 2002 State Water Plan make clear the magnitude of this challenge:

• During the 50-year period between 2000 and 2050 the total statewide demand for water in Texas is expected to increase 18 percent, from nearly 17 million acre-feet in 2000 to 20 million acre-feet;

• In this same time period, water supplies from existing sources in Texas are expected to decrease 19 percent, from 17.8 million acre-feet to 14.5 million acre-feet; and

• By 2050, almost 900 cities (representing 38 percent of the state’s projected population) and other water users will need either to reduce demand (through conservation and/or drought management) or develop additional sources of water supply.

Water marketing has been proposed as one of the key strategies to meet Texas’ future water needs. Several forms of water and water right transfers – including the sale and lease of water and water rights, water banking, dry-year option contracts, and redirection of conserved water – may be used to move water use from one party to another.

In several parts of the State, there are viable water conservation strategies that can be implemented, and the water saved may be marketed. The general practice, historically, has been for municipalities or industries to acquire water by financing the modernization of irrigation systems in exchange for the right to use all or part of the water that is conserved. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, for example, irrigation districts have utilized this approach to finance improvements that both conserve water and improve canal distribution efficiencies.

Some Important Sale and Purchase Considerations

In Texas, rights to groundwater may be severed from the land and made available for sale. Likewise, it is possible to purchase a lease for the right to withdraw groundwater. Historically, however, it has been much easier for prospective groundwater users to merely purchase a parcel of land and mine the groundwater available there, than to purchase groundwater via contract with an existing landowner. However, in the future, due to the expansion in use of local regulatory authority, groundwater transactions might primarily occur via a contract with an existing landowner. Contracts could specify an actual amount of groundwater to be withdrawn, a withdrawal rate, a term certain for proposed withdrawals, etc. - similar to surface water contracts.

A number of obstacles limit widespread groundwater marketing in Texas. These obstacles include both a lack of identifiable buyers and sellers and transaction costs that are often high. Another obstacle to groundwater marketing in Texas lies in the fact that there is often no economically reasonable means to physically move the water from areas of availability to areas of need, without the development of substantial conveyance systems. This condition is further complicated by the fact that many potential sellers of groundwater have no right of eminent domain necessary to condemn lands for conveyance right-of-way—a situation that may require legislative authorization to allow groundwater transport.

Also, in geographic areas not covered by a groundwater conservation district, there may be no mechanism for restricting how much groundwater may be used from the land where pumping is contemplated. The market in groundwater is, in that sense, almost totally unregulated (groundwater must not be wasted), a condition that may generate substantial uncertainty regarding the reliability of the groundwater source.

In general, the transfer of groundwater within and from groundwater districts is dependent on the particular rules of each district.  In most, if not all districts, rules will have been adopted that address transfer requirements for wells that are located within a district’s boundaries. 

Factors that Influence Price or Marketability

Certain fundamental conditions related to property rights in water must be in place for a market-based water transfer system to be successful. Property rights in water must be well defined, exclusive to the holder of the right, transferable, and enforceable against third parties (generally defined as parties not directly included in a transaction, that is, impacted parties other than the buyer or seller). If these conditions exist then the price or marketability of water and water rights becomes the predominant issue for potential buyers and sellers. There are a number of factors that influence the price and marketability of water and water rights in Texas. These factors include:

• The location of the water right;

• Whether the water is surface water or groundwater;

• The priority date of the surface water right;

• The anticipated use of the water;

• The quality and reliability of the water;

• Will the water right need to be amended, and can an amendment be obtained;

• Whether there are alternative sources of water; and

• Other administrative issues.

It has often been said by real estate professionals that the three things that contribute most to the value of real estate are location, location, and location. The same and more can be said for water rights where location not only refers to geographic location, but also, where the right is located on the priority date list.

For example, the holder of an upstream surface water right with a priority date of 1965 would legally have to stop using water under his/her certificate of adjudication or permit when a downstream user with a priority date of 1920 isn’t getting enough water for their use. For this reason, the priority date of a water right, as well as its priority date in relation to the priority dates of the water rights around it, has a serious impact on the value of that water right. In general, the oldest water rights on a flowing stream segment are the most valuable.

The geographical location of the water right is also important, particularly if the water right is situated within the jurisdictional boundaries of a river authority, a watermaster program administered by TCEQ, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, or other groundwater conservation district. Considerations, related to these entities, which may affect the price and marketability of water and water rights are examined below.

Groundwater Conservation Districts

Outside of groundwater conservation districts, the sale of groundwater and groundwater rights remains largely unregulated in Texas. In fact, the largely unregulated nature of groundwater production compared to the highly regulated use of surface water has recently encouraged water suppliers to look at groundwater, and possibly the import of groundwater, as a viable water development option.

In those areas regulated by a groundwater conservation district, there may be certain obstacles to water marketing, particularly outside of the district’s boundaries. Section 36.122 of the Texas Water Code specifically provides that a groundwater district may limit the transfer of water outside of a district, but may not impose more restrictive conditions on transporters than on existing in-district use.

Groundwater conservation districts do not deprive or divest landowners of their marketable ownership rights in groundwater. Such rights do, however, become subject to rules promulgated by the district. For that reason, it can be said that the "rule of capture" does not fully apply within an active groundwater district. District rules may require well permitting, including permitting for moving groundwater out-of-district, limits on annual production, and allowable water table drawdown regulations. A well permit itself can become a part of the transferable commodity within a district’s jurisdiction.

The Future of Water Marketing in Texas

Water marketing has taken and will continue to take many forms and the various types and uses of transferred water have the potential to meet various water supply needs. The bulk of these transfers are anticipated to involve leases of water and not the outright sale of water rights. However, water marketing is not a cure-all but one of several tools municipalities, irrigators, industry and others in Texas may utilize to meet their current and future demands for water. Other water supply strategies include water conservation, desalination of sea water, brush control, recycling wastewater, and voluntary land retirement—taking marginal agricultural lands out of production. The 2002 State Water Plan contemplates using a combination of these and other methods to insure that the state’s most valuable resource, water, is available for future uses.

If the experience in other Western States holds true for Texas, much of the future of water marketing will come by way of contract sales of currently unused water stored in large water supply projects. To a large extent, these transfers can be accomplished with minimal state administrative oversight.

There is general consensus among water marketing experts in Texas that development of a more viable water marketing system will require additional conveyance and storage facilities, and that a combined effort by the State and private enterprise to develop these needed facilities would significantly increase the feasibility of water marketing transactions outside of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

In addition to structural challenges, the future of water marketing in Texas must contend with a number of other issues such as minimizing transaction costs and uncertainties related to water transfers, increasing the number of interested buyers and sellers and the information readily available to them, and defining a public interest review of transfers that considers potential third-party impacts and protects the environment. In addition, water-marketing efforts must realize the tremendous potential of moving water from water rich areas of the state to urban centers without endangering the future economies of rural Texas and other export basins of origin.

Note:  There is no standard form for an agreement to sell or lease water rights.  For any sale or contract involving the conveyance of real property, it is recommended that both buyer and seller obtain separate legal counsel. 

 

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