The 84th legislative session ended on June 1, 2015. See the bills that have become law.

Reforming how groundwater is managed

Curated by Neena Satija

Heavy rains across the state filled up rivers and lakes across the state in May, but the prospects of legislators addressing the state's patchwork system of regulating groundwater dried up as the 84th legislative session nears its end.

Local districts manage groundwater along county lines, even though aquifers flow across them. There is little agreement on how to measure the amount of groundwater reasonably available to pump.

Thirsty cities looking for groundwater in remote areas complain of dealing with provincial districts that are too stingy with their water, while some rural landowners fear losing local control over a precious resource. And concern is mounting over the amount of fresh groundwater used by energy companies for fracking. The same conflicts hinder access to the estimated trillions of gallons of brackish groundwater — which can be drinkable after expensive treatment called desalination — and lawmakers can’t even decide how to define the word “brackish.”

While the Legislature didn’t change the state’s patchwork system of oversight for groundwater, legislation addressing groundwater regulation in Central Texas’ Hays County passed at the end of the session.

A company’s proposal to pump huge amounts of groundwater from underneath Hays County without almost no oversight has spurred Hill Country residents to demand better regulation of the area's aquifers. Legislation to transfer the land in question to a conservation district appeared dead after a point of order targeting the bill was sustained. But that ruling was overturned and the measure advanced.

Updated: June 1, 2015

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The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.