AUSTIN, Texas —The Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association applauded the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Pape Partners v. DRR Family Properties. The ruling reaffirms longstanding precedent on how water rights are considered, interpreted and protected in Texas.
At stake was proper jurisdiction to decide disputes over ownership of water rights, the court system or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In 2020, Texas’ 10th Court of Appeals ruled that TCEQ had exclusive jurisdiction to decide questions over ownership of water rights, and disputes must go through the agency’s administrative process. The ruling, however, was widely criticized for reversing established precedent and creating substantial uncertainty for landowners.
Last year, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association submitted an amicus brief, available here, supporting Pape Partners. The brief argued that TCEQ does not have the jurisdiction suggested by the appeals court and asked that the Texas Supreme Court consider the issue and reverse the lower court’s ruling.
Today’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court did precisely that and ensures Texas property owners can continue to rely on Texas courts to decide questions over ownership of water rights.
“Access to water is an essential part of raising cattle, both to sustain the livestock themselves and the pastures they graze upon, making water ownership one of our most important property rights,” said Arthur Uhl, president of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. “I am very pleased with today’s decision because it gives Texas cattle producers the clarity and consistency they need when disputes arise.”
Texas has a long history of protecting private ownership of surface and groundwater, but that right is under constant threat. This case is a good reminder of how important it is to remain vigilant and fight to ensure Texans never lose this precious right and resource,” Uhl concluded.