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What you need to know about surface water rights here in Texas

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2021 | Water Access |

It’s not uncommon for people looking for property to choose a location near a body of water. Developers often build their new home communities along bodies of water whenever possible as well.

Here in Texas, many of the bodies of water like lakes, rivers and creeks are referred to as surface water. Some of these might be held in trust by the state for public use. If you wish to gain the right to use that body of water as a non-possessory, you’ll likely need to petition for water rights by filing an application with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

How does Texas define surface water?

Texas Water Code Section 11.021 lists the following as surface water:

  • Tides, rainwater, floodwater and storm water from flowing rivers
  • Lakes
  • Ravines
  • Arms of the Gulf of Mexico
  • Canyons
  • Natural streams
  • Watersheds
  • Bays
  • Rain
  • Depressions

All of the above-referenced bodies of water are held in trust by the state, with very few exceptions.

How can Texas residents gain access to these bodies of water?

You can gain access to the sources of surface water as described above, provided that you’re planning to use it for any of the following purposes:

  • Municipal or domestic reasons
  • Farming
  • Industry
  • Mining
  • To create hydroelectric power
  • For navigation
  • Pleasure, including recreation
  • As a public park
  • As a game reserve

You’ll certainly want to take time to learn more about what your water rights are related to the body of water on the property you’re planning to buy or utilize before making use of it. Doing so will minimize the chances of exposure to legal liability.


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