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Farmers and ranchers win Bluebonnet Groundwater fight

Seeking policy changes

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Ten wells pumping 22,500 acre feet of water will not be dug across four counties to bring water to suburban areas of Fort Bend County, according to the Houston Chronicle, following a campaign by farmers and ranchers to oppose the proposal:

A Houston company has dropped its plans to tap an aquifer beneath mostly rural Austin and Waller counties for use in fast-growing Fort Bend County suburbs, ending one of Texas’ nastiest water fights.

Electro Purification LLC’s withdrawal this week, however, does not put to rest the primary reason for the conflict: the unique way Texas governs groundwater. State law allows property owners to pump as much water from beneath their land as they desire, for any purpose.

Farmers, ranchers and others said the company’s pumping request would rob them of water beneath their land and harm their livelihoods. Now they intend to press forward on policy changes to prevent “water grabs” in the future.

“We are going to go on the offensive because there isn’t anything (in state law) stopping the next water grab or the one after that,” said Tom Sherman, an Austin County resident who organized Concerned Citizens for Texas Water Resources, a group that opposed the pumping plan. “This is a quasi-small victory.”

Groundwater fights have become increasingly common across the drought-prone state as water marketers and utilities work feverishly to secure large volumes beneath rural areas to meet urban demands. In one of the higher-profile cases, a Central Texas groundwater district last week decided to limit the amount of water that could be pumped and moved across county lines - a ruling that appears headed to court.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts publishes profiles on the major regions of Texas including this report on water in the Gulf Coast Region.

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