Senate passes critical water condemnation rights legislation
AUSTIN - The Texas Senate today passed Senate Bill 1227 from Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, which establishes criteria a city must prove to a court of law before declaring eminent domain of a private landowner's water rights.
Current law provides for little test of whether condemnation is an appropriate step. A city or county's claim of eminent domain over a private Texans's property should require the utmost caution, Duncan said.
SB 1227 adds the following criteria to Chapter 21 of the Property Code:
- requires a political subdivision to prove condemnation is needed because a voluntary purchase of water was not possible to fulfill a public purpose;
- the city or county must have prepared a drought contingency plan;
- developed and implemented a water conservation plan;
- made a good faith effort to obtain alternative water supplies;
- made a good faith effort to purchase the water rights under a voluntary agreement;
- demonstrate the political subdivision needs the water to provide for its domestic needs within the next 10 years.
If the district court determines the political subdivision has not met the requirements of the Property Code, the water rights condemnation application will be denied; should the court be satisfied the requirements have been met, condemnation may proceed.
"Water is a critical part of enterprise for many Texas farmers and ranchers. Condemning their water rights may also condemn their ability to make a living," Duncan said. "This is not a move cities or counties should take lightly."
SB 1227 will now go to the Texas House for approval.
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