Texas is in the middle of a brutal drought, one of the worst in its recorded history, with cities enforcing strict water use restrictions and levying hefty fines on violators. But the state’s Republican Attorney General and leading candidate for governor found a way to get around all that.
Greg Abbott and other wealthy Austin residents are drilling their own wells, giving them plenty of H2O to keep their lawns green.
“As the Texas Supreme Court has made clear, all Texas landowners have a right to the water under their property,” Abbott’s spokesperson, Matt Hirsch told the Texas Tribune.
The city requires well-drilling landowners to pay $90 annually and to register their wells. Resevoirs serving Austin are currently at one-third of their capacity, but under what Texans call the “rule of capture,” the city like many Texas municipalities allows landowners to pump as much water as they want from their own property, even if it drains a neighbor’s supply.
The rule has been upheld by Texas courts.
“To me it’s just unconscionable. It’s a total disregard for the resource,” Andrew Sansom of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University told the Tribune. “What we should be doing is reducing our consumption of water.”
Other wealthy Austin residents have also drilled their own wells, the Tribune found. They include golfer Ben Crenshaw and University of Texas football coach Mack Brown.
Wendy Davis, the leading Democrat in the governor’s race, has not drilled any wells according to the Tribune’s research. But she supports the rights of landowners to their own water, her spokesperson says.
“She has a strong record of protecting the rights of Texas property owners and believes that if you own the land, you own the water underneath,” said Bo Delp, who added that Davis favors the rule of capture and would not try to change it if elected.
SOURCES: Texas Tribune, My High Plains