As many of you may have seen in our recent ads in local newspapers, our water district has reached a milestone. It appears we may now have a district that has the ability to stand up to manipulative interests that would see our water rights sacrificed for their financial and political convenience.
It has been frustrating for us in the past as it seemed that we were fighting an uphill battle. Of course, the battle continues, but on a more level playing field. We are now in a position to develop meaningful, responsible solutions to the issue of managing our local water resources in an open and honest way that respects the rights of the owners of that water – you, the landowner.
We have heard all kinds of reasons why our property rights should be infringed upon:
- “It’s drinking water, not irrigation water.” (never mind that most of the municipal water ends up on lawns)
- “The deep water is for the cities.”
- “We have to protect our community from water marketers.”
- And of course, more recently, “San Antonio is going to take it all if we don’t do something.”
These are just scare tactics that make no sense. All these arguments are designed to provide self-serving interests an avenue to “protect us” by administratively taking control of your property without paying a fair price for it.
No one reading this letter would think that they should have to give up their mineral rights so the cities in the area would have cheap oil and gas to sell to the public. No one would suggest that all oil and gas production in Brazos and Robertson Counties needs to stay local so select groups can profit off of that cheap energy. Who would dare criticize a landowner for profiting from his mineral rights? How well received do you think a municipal representative would be if he publicly vilified a local landowner for negotiating the most advantageous lease for his mineral rights?
Of course, I am not suggesting that we should all go out and try to market our water to San Antonio, but I refuse to believe that you should not have the right to do so. Just like I refuse to believe that Bryan and College Station, by virtue of their locations, are by default the owners of our water and therefore have no need to enter into water contracts with us…the landowners.
Bryan and College Station have gone to great expense and trouble to try and take your water through all types of covert and overt shenanigans. They have never, to my knowledge, attempted to negotiate short or long term lease contracts with local landowners for the purchase of their water. But then again, why should they, considering their success in scaring landowners into giving up their rights so they can be “protected” from the evil “water marketers.”
A large number of you will not think twice about buying a bottle of water at the local convenience store and paying a higher price per gallon than the gas you just pumped. Sure, this will seem like a strange analogy, but actually it is not that far off base, because when you consider the quality, convenience and location of that bottle of water the analogy becomes valid. The value is in the convenience, quality and location, and guess what – your high quality water is conveniently located near two large and thirsty municipalities.
Now, lets talk about San Antonio. San Antonio is not the only municipality out there looking for water. Austin, Houston, Waco, Temple, Dallas, Ft. Worth and many cities along the I-35 corridor are thirsty for water. So some landowners just across the Brazos river in the Post Oak Savannah water district have signed water leases with these municipalities and are getting paid for their water. The unwritten laws of water seem to only benefit landowners to the west of the Brazos river. There they can sell their water to municipalities, while those of us on the east side of the Brazos river have essentially had our ability to sell water infringed upon via Bryan and College Station’s long term control of our water district.
Most importantly, don’t think that the motive of the cities is innocent. The profit from the water sales is huge. The two cities combined recently generated over $27 million dollars in water sales and then generated another $26 million to treat the resulting wastewater for a combined total of over $54 million dollars. This is from water they have acquired through a flawed historic use permitting process they helped create while under the guise of trying to protect us from the evil water marketers/farmers that are going to sell all of “our water” right out from under us. “Water that is necessary for life” will be sold to other cities and we will go thirsty and, I guess, die. Shameful scare tactics.
So what can landowners on the west side of the Brazos do that landowners on the east can’t? Well, the Austin American Statesman (January 15, 2015) reported that the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) paid $6.85 million dollars to buy water rights from land in Bastrop County. The deal worked out to $1,370.00 per acre foot of water right, and the landowner does not have to incur the expense of drilling a well. Think about it. If you have 100 acres of land and had permits for 3 acre feet of water per acre, it would work out to $411,000.00 and you would still own the minerals and the surface. That is real. Remember, The City of Bryan has permits to pump 33,540.03 acre feet of water off of 1,841 acres of land. This works out to 18.22 acre feet of water per acre of land. Or, if you had similar permits and then did the math and applied that to your 100 acres, it would be $2,496,140 in your pocket. So why let Bryan and College Station take what others will obviously pay for? Don’t let them scare you into letting them inequitably limit the use of your water – water you our your family can benefit from now or in the future.
Now that I have got you thinking, please take the time to show your support by starting or renewing your associate membership with BVGRA today. An associate membership is $50.00 per year and will help keep you informed about the water issues that will have a direct impact on the usability and value of your land. Please fill out the enclosed card and send it with your check for $50.00 made payable to the Brazos Valley Groundwater Rights Association. By becoming an associate member today you help us continue our efforts in protecting your valuable property rights.
We are making a tremendous amount of positive progress. With your continued support and involvement, you can have a water district that operates honestly and openly and respects the property rights of this great State of Texas.
Brazos Valley Groundwater Rights Association
P.O. Box 4713
Bryan, TX 77805