WASHINGTON, February 29, 2012 -Agricultural interests in drought-stricken Texas cheered a state court ruling on groundwater rights and hoped a state agency wouldn’t cut off irrigation water to farmers in three counties that produce 5% of the U.S. rice crop

The Texas Supreme Court affirmed that landowners own the groundwater in place below their land and that it is subject to constitutional protection as a property right. The ruling recognized the state legislature’s recent passage of a groundwater ownership bill “that says a landowner’s interest in groundwater in place cannot be taken for public use without adequate compensation,” the Texas Farm Bureau said. The opinion “will be important for generations to come,” the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association added.

Meanwhile, Texas rice growers are worried about this year. The Lower Colorado River Authority will decide March 1 whether to withhold releases from two man-made lakes that normally provide water to customers in an area stretching from Austin to Matagorda Bay. Rice farmers are the largest user and can have their supply interrupted when lake levels fall below pre-determined targets. Drought conditions have resulted in some of the lowest lake levels in history and “could mean that most downstream farmers receive no water” this year, the LRCA warned last week.


Original story printed in February 29, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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