Forum looks at protecting groundwater rights
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WANT TO LEARN MORE?Go to www.groundwaterownership.com.
Groundwater rights aren't an issue yet, but a group of lobbyists is concerned that they will be.
"This is being questioned in the state Supreme Court. It's been questioned in multiple legislative sessions. That's why we've been focused on these educational efforts. People need to be informed," said Jason Skaggs, Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association executive director for government.
About 100 people gathered on Wednesday afternoon in the Town Hall Room of First Victoria National Bank to attend a forum on groundwater ownership.
This forum was the fifth of seven scheduled for across the state in a partnership between lobbyist groups for the Texas Wildlife Association, the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
Skaggs, along with Texas Farm Bureau state legislative director Billy Howe, Texas Wildlife Association vice president Kirby Brown and attorney Russell Johnson, took turns informing the audience and answering questions about groundwater rights.
According to the speakers, groundwater rights in Texas are in danger because of court cases, legislation and the growing need for water.
The solution, the group said, was for private landowners to be vigilant in keeping control of their groundwater rights, according to the joint position statement handed out during the meeting.
Their agenda was to get people informed and ready to speak out to their elected officials about the need to protect water rights, Skaggs said.
The forum was also focused on getting rural people involved in the political process, Skaggs said.
People from rural populations tend to be less involved in the political process, but this is a habit they need to change, Howe said.
"Rural Texans have unfortunately not been good about playing the political game like that because we don't like politicians, we don't like lobbyists and we don't like people like that, but it's time we got involved," Howe said.
Each speaker spoke for about 30 minutes about groundwater rights before the audience had the floor to ask questions.
"We're doing this across the state now to highlight and reaffirm the existing rights landowners have in groundwater," Brown said.
Skaggs said the organizations decided to work together and hold these informational meetings out of concern for the future of groundwater rights.
"It's essential that agricultural people get informed and step up, stand up and speak out," Skaggs said.
Audience members listened attentively and spent more than an hour asking questions.
"I just came out to hear a little bit about where they are with all of this. Groundwater rights are definitely good to pay attention too," Mark Meek, of Inez, said.
Bay City land owner Frank Lewis said he found the presentation helpful.
"It was good. It's important to keep up on these things. I don't want someone taking my water rights away," Lewis said.