In a time when the competition for water resources is increasing, water law and policy for groundwater is evolving, bringing to the fore the conflict between surface use and groundwater. Unlike the oil and gas context where the mineral estate is dominant, the superiority of severed groundwater to the surface estate has remained uncertain. The recent Texas Supreme Court case, Coyote Lake Ranch v. City of Lubbock, addressed this question, holding that the accommodation doctrine (long applied to mineral estates) applied to groundwater interests in that case. On its face, the case was a dispute between a Texas city and a landowner over the use and damage to surface property caused by groundwater development. The implications of the Supreme Court’s holding, however, run deep and are significant in this time of growing water scarcity. The Coyote Lake Ranch case signals a continued push toward unifying the law governing mineral and groundwater law and emphasizes the need for the courts and the Texas Legislature to be proactive in balancing the interests and rights of all parties.
Copyright (c) 2017 Jim D Bradbury, Courtney Cox Smith, Avery Ory