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Who Regulates Water On Your Property?

After buying your heaven on earth, you got a survey and title defining boundaries for “your private property”.  You couldn’t wait to hike fence lines and learn every inch.  Crossing a ravine, you envision a future pond and excitedly call a dirt contractor.  Just as you proudly overlook the site, the contractor advises the drainage feeds a nearby creek and cannot be dammed.  So who owns the water?

Normally, when I visit a friend in Northeast Texas, we feed his fish and talk like pond management experts.  Today, there was snow on the ground.  He had raised the question of water rights during last fall’s POND BOSS Conference in Missouri, so we spent otherwise dock time researching statutes.

State water is defined as “The water of the ordinary flow, underflow, and tides of every flowing river, natural stream, and lake, and of every bay or arm of the Gulf of Mexico, and the storm water, floodwater, and rainwater of every river, natural stream, canyon, ravine, depression, and watershed in the state is the property of the state.  And then there’s another legal class – Diffused Surface Water.  It’s described as “Surface drainage over the face of a tract of land before it is concentrated into a channel or streamcourse.  It retains this classification until reaching a streamcourse, sinking into the ground, or evaporating.  In Texas, landowners have the right to intercept, impound, and use diffused surface water on their land.  Their rights are superior to those of adjacent lower landowners and to holders of rights on streams into which the water might eventually flow.  Texas law provides that diffused surface water can be impounded in tanks by the landowner on his own property without a permit, so long as the reservoir does not exceed 200 acre-feet in storage capacity and the water is used only for domestic and livestock purposes”.

Please exercise due diligence when selecting a lake site.  It may be your private property, but environmental water regulations are encroaching into many phases of “your use”.  We’ve heard stories of folks who completed projects only to have governmental agencies order the dam removed.  Also be informed of laws regarding pumping water from tributaries and streams.  If legal, test water to insure you’re not dumping golden algae, rough fish fry, or other devastating contamination into your pond.

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