Drought tests water rights system
POSTED: Monday, February 6, 2012 - 11:04am
UPDATED: Monday, February 6, 2012 - 11:04am
AUSTIN, TX — Early this past month, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a notice to a handful of East Texas groups in the Sabine River basin: Their rights to river water will be suspended because a Hawkins hunting and fishing club needs more water. The club’s right to water predates the others’ rights.
The notice is the latest development in what experts say is an unprecedented tug of war between surface water rights holders. Texans with more “senior,” or long-standing, water rights can tell the commission they need more access to water, trumping “junior” rights holders along the same river, who may see their water use limited. And when drought makes water scarce, those senior rights prove to be critical.
“In modern history, at least as long as I’ve been paying attention, this is the first time it’s really come to the fore,” Russell Johnson, of the law firm McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore, said of the junior-senior system.
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