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Groundwater Issues

What is Water Ranching in Texas?

Ranching is definitely nothing new to Texas. It's been done with cattle, sheep and goats for generations. In fact, much of our history and cultural heritage is tied up in the tradition of ranching and agriculture. But as small-scale livestock production and ranching face increasing economic challenges, a different kind of ranching is gaining popularity. The term "water ranching" has evolved to describe the practice of landowners selling the right to pump the groundwater that lies beneath their land to another entity, or the situation where an outside interest purchases land with the sole intent of "mining" the groundwater beneath it for use elsewhere. Water ranching usually occurs in rural areas of the state where groundwater supplies are still relatively untapped, and most often "ranches" have multiple wells that are complemented by large pumps. What makes water ranching different from more traditional uses of groundwater is that the volumes of water being withdrawn are much greater than historical withdrawals - much more than the landowner would have ever used to irrigate his/her crops, or to support his livestock or family. For this reason, issues like aquifer sustainability, fairness and equity in withdrawals and legal rights to capture water, are coming into question.

Examples of Water Ranching From Across Texas