Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Landowners Cash in on Groundwater Rights

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Landowners Cash in on Groundwater Rights

Article excerpt

A Canadian County landowner launched a new business venture on Tuesday: water sales and marketing. The landowner said he's just catching up with his neighbors, who have already begun to capitalize on their groundwater rights as water resources in the region continue to increase in value.

Members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board appeared somewhat reluctant to approve the water use permit for Joe Anderson Property Management Company LLC, but could not find a thing wrong with his application from a legal standpoint.

State law and agency rules allow Oklahoma landowners the right to pull about two acre-feet of water per year for each acre of land they own, though the board may allocate more or less than two acre- feet in certain areas where studies have confirmed the basin's maximum annual yield.

Anderson owns enough land to justify the allocation he requested. There is no reason to believe water pulled from the property will be wasted. Anderson plans to sell the water to a municipality, which falls under the board's definition of a "beneficial use." And his plans to sell the water within his county do not violate any state laws.

"So if we don't like it, we've got to change the rules," said board member Richard Sevenoaks, just before voting to approve Anderson's application to pull 320 acre-feet per year for the purpose of selling the water.

Anderson owns 160 acres in southwestern Canadian County, which he rents to ranchers. The cattle have access to water from a nearby stream that does not run dry even in severe drought conditions, said Anderson. The land's groundwater resource has gone virtually unused until now, he said.

Anderson's application was a bit unusual in that most landowners' applications anticipate some personal or agricultural use, while Anderson's stated purpose was to sell the water to municipalities - though he doesn't have any customers lined up yet.

"Can we say this is a 'beneficial use' when there is no user?" questioned board member Ford Drummond. The board's attorney, Dean Couch, said the agency is concerned only with how the water is to be used, not with who will use the water, so it doesn't matter if Anderson does not identify the end user of the water in his application. …

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