Groundwater Rights Battle In Texas

Texas – State lawmakers are debating how to clarify that landowners have an ownership interest in the groundwater beneath their land.

Nederland Rep. Allan Ritter authored the bill that would uphold the century-old custom known as the rule of capture.

Texans own the water beneath their ground and have a right to pump it. But conservation districts can set limits on how much water landowners pump under Ritter's bill.

The controversy on Tuesday centered on the term "vested" in reference to a landowner's interest. Witnesses at a committee hearing were concerned the word will create confusion and be misapplied.

Deborah Trejo, an environmental attorney, said the language could make groundwater districts susceptible to lawsuits from landowners demanding to pump more water.

An identical bill passed the Senate with enormous support last month.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.