Texas property owners’ water rights explained

Water rights are a critical aspect of property ownership in East Texas, where water is essential for things like agriculture, industry, commercial and personal use. Texas law recognizes two main types of water: groundwater and surface water. Each type has distinct regulations and implications for property owners, especially during transactions involving land.

Groundwater and property transactions

In Texas, groundwater is considered a private property right. This means that the ownership of groundwater is tied to the land unless explicitly severed in a property transaction. Recently, it has become more common for landowners to separate water rights from their land during sales. This can be done by the seller reserving the water rights during the sale of the surface and remaining underground resources or transferring them separately to another party. As a result, buyers should not assume that water rights are automatically included when purchasing land. Understanding these distinctions and documenting the severance correctly is crucial for both buyers and sellers to ensure that their real estate transactions meet their expectations and legal requirements.

Surface water and regulatory considerations

Unlike groundwater, surface water is deemed a public resource by the state of Texas. Therefore, if you intend to use surface water, you are likely required to obtain specific permits. The process for applying for these permits can be lengthy, taking up to 300 days, and it’s subject to strict adherence to environmental regulations. However, there are exemptions available for using surface water without a permit for domestic and livestock purposes, wildlife management, and in certain emergency situations like fires.

The role of water in buying and selling property

When purchasing or selling property in East Texas, the type of water available and the rights attached to it play a pivotal role. Whether it’s groundwater or surface water, understanding the legal implications and ensuring proper documentation is key to a successful transaction. Buyers should be particularly diligent in verifying whether water rights are included with the land or if they need to be handled separately.

Know your rights as a homeowner

For East Texas landowners, understanding and managing water rights is essential, particularly when these rights can significantly impact the value and usability of their property. If you are considering buying or selling property or you need to clarify the status of water rights on your land, consulting with an energy law attorney can provide you with clarity and direction to align your real estate transactions with your goals.