Academic journal article The Review of Litigation

Edwards Aquifer Authority V. Day and the Future of Groundwater Regulation in Texas

Academic journal article The Review of Litigation

Edwards Aquifer Authority V. Day and the Future of Groundwater Regulation in Texas

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION........................................................................ 403

II. THECURRENTCONTROVERSY: EDWARDSAQUIFER AUTHORITYV. DAY..... .............................................................. 404

A. Background: The Edwards Aquifer Authority Act .........404

B. Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day .................................406

1. Factual Background .................................................407

2. Outcome in Lower Courts.......................... .............. 408

III. CURRENT TEXAS LAW... .......................................................... 409

A. Case Law....................................... .............. ....................410

B. Legislation..... .................................................................. 417

C. Public Policy Versus Black Letter Law.. ..................... ....419

IV. REGULATORY TAKINGS OF GROUNDWATER... ......................... 420

A. Background Concepts: Eminent Domain Versus Police Power .............................................................................. 421

B. Regulatory Takings in General .......................................422

C. When Does Regulation Go Too Far?: An Analysis od Day ............................................................................ ..425

1. Lucas Total Taking ..................................................426

2. Interference with the Right to Use and Enjoy Property.......... ................................................ ..........427

3. Day Revisited... ............................................. 428

D. A Look at Surface Water Regulation........... ....................431

E. The Future of Takings Claims Against the EAA ............. 432

V. CONCLUSION ........................................................................... 434

I. INTRODUCTION

There is a property right to groundwater in place. Nevertheless, the recognition of that property right has come under fire in the Texas courts as concerns about the growing demand for groundwater and the growing marketplace for groundwater have been on the rise. Advocates for groundwater conservation districts and policy developers are concerned that the recognition of a right to groundwater currently in place will hinder the duly formed districts' abilities to regulate groundwater usage and will, therefore, hinder any meaningful efforts to plan for future water needs. That is not the case, however, because the state can regulate private property rights as a valid exercise of its police power in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The purpose of this note is to demonstrate that recognized property rights and state regulation of those rights can co-exist in an efficient manner that will not stifle much-needed water planning efforts in the state of Texas. By recognizing the right to groundwater in place and the very limited scope of possible takings claims under current standards as applied to groundwater regulation, water planning can proceed on a strong and certain legal foundation.

II. THE CURRENT CONTROVERSY: EDWARDS AQUIFER AUTHORITY v. DAY

The question of who owns groundwater in place is currently before the Supreme Court of Texas. 1 While the question arises out of a dispute concerning groundwater contained in the Edwards Aquifer, the decision will affect groundwater ownership statewide.

A. Background: The Edwards Aquifer Authority Act

The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) regulates groundwater in the Edwards Aquifer (Aquifer) pursuant to the Edwards Aquifer Authority Act of 1993 (EAA Act).2 The EAA "performs governmental functions and exercises the state's police power essentially as [an agent] of the State to protect the health, safety, comfort, and welfare of the public, specifically by regulating and managing the Aquifer for the overall welfare of the public. …

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