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Mr. Smith,

I have enjoyed your articles on Texas water issues in the Southwest Farm Press. I wanted to offer one clarification, however. IN the Oct. 21, 2004 piece, you state that the rule of capture “gives a property owner the right to use as much water as he can capture from underneath his land, as long as it is a reasonable use.” The first part is correct, but there are no “reasonable use” limitations under the rule of capture…that is it's big failing. A landowner can pump as much water as he wants, whether it damages a neighbor or not…the only limitation is you can't “maliciously” damage your neighbor (i.e. intentionally).

If you are interested in more information on our water work, we have several reports and other information on the web at, including a new report on water marketing in Texas.

Thanks for considering this, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Mary E. Kelly
Senior Attorney,
Program Director for U.S./Mexico
Border Initiatives
Environmental Defense
Austin, Texas

Mr. Smith,

I just read your article on Dell City and appreciate your fairness. I am the District Engineer for Hudpseth County Underground Water Conservation District No. 1. And as with most complex issues, there are always two sides to each story. Mr. Richardson likely failed to inform you that he received a permit for the large majority of his CRP land. Mr. Navar likely failed to tell you that some of the land he claimed water for was classified by the NRCS as non-irrigable because of salt problems, and Mr. Lynch likely failed to tell you that he sold off all of his land with water rights, that his CRP land was taxed as non-irrigated land (about 3 percent of the tax rate for irrigated land), and that he entered into a contract with the City of El Paso that would have allowed the City to drain the aquifer from wells on Lynch property just outside the boundaries of the district.

I certainly agree, that all of the pressure and problems forced on the groundwater district are a result of the City of El Paso desires to import Dell City water. The District holds no land or water rights, but rather administrates rules governing the use of groundwater to manage the aquifer in a sustainable manner and conserve water. Thanks for your hard work.
A.W.Blair, P.E., PhD
Austin Texas

Editor's response

Water issues in Texas and throughout the Southwest will play an increasingly important role in state legislatures in the coming years. Populations continue to increase and current water resources will not meet the increased demand unless states, counties, associations and water districts work together to create workable plans to conserve water and to allocate it fairly.

Rural areas will become targets for water marketers as cities look for new sources of water. Farmers, ranchers and rural residents in general will be well advised to become involved in water issues as soon as possible to protect this vital resource.

The Texas legislature likely will address water resources when it convenes in January. Pay attention and let representatives know how you feel about the issues. At Southwest Farm Press, we'll help keep you informed about what's happening with Southwest water legislation.
Ron Smith
Southwest Farm Press

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