Science versus Politics in Groundwater Districts

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Texas Groundwater Districts were created for local stewardship of groundwater supplies, a resource Texas Courts have consistently ruled that landowners already have the right to use. However, it appears that some groundwater districts have been making rules and decisions based on politics rather than science. Charles Perry chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs and co-chairs the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas Advisory Committee.

“So you have all these water districts that like their little world and the large majority of them do a good job. But the outliers that with anything down here we make laws and rules for bad actors at the expense of the good ones. But when it comes to water, if these districts can’t justify scientifically why they exist and what they have their rules for, then they need to go away.”

Perry says that he’s feeling a push from the urban areas in his district to do away with all groundwater districts, but he doesn’t believe that would be good state policy either.

“They need to base their data, their decision making on science, and that’s been a challenge. And what we’re finding out is, some of them can’t justify their existence. Some of them don’t have the resources to have a scientifically based rule, so it’s going to force the consolidation probably where resources are available to do the science.”

Perry has tried to have these problems addressed before.

“So for two sessions I’ve filed bills to kind of nudge them and push them and nudge them and push them, only to kind of have them die and that’s OK. So 1010’s come out and said you’ve been telling me for two sessions that you’ve got all of this cool stuff. All 1010 says is show me and it’s really kind of upset their apple cart because a large majority of them are not ready to show me.”

It’s no surprise that there’s some push back from Groundwater Districts.

“So it just means if you say you’re scientifically based for the reasons you exist and the rules you make, then show me because you’ve been telling me for two sessions that you can. And that’s all it did just as simple as that. Show me what you got. Let me have a little oversight here to see if that really does meet muster. And they are not liking it.”

The bill passed the Senate last month and was scheduled for a hearing in the Texas House Natural Resources Committee this week.