‘Prior aPProPriations’ system
In Texas, water in rivers, lakes and streams — known as surface water — is owned by the state and held in trust for residents.
Through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state grants the right to use the water to farmers or ranchers; cities; industries; businesses; and other public and private interests.
To use surface water in Texas, such interests must first get permission from the state unless they use the water for one of several exempt purposes, including domestic or livestock use, emergency use or wildlife management.
Traditionally, first, or‘senior,’water rights must be satisfied before later water rights are met.
The date a permit holder secures water rights with the state establishes its place in line.