Making a Call on a Senior Water Right

There are two sources of water generally available to meet state water demands, surface water and groundwater.  Making a call on a senior water right is the means by which landowners protect and assert their rights in surface water.

Surface water rights are generally “first in time, first in right.” This means that a senior water right holder downstream can require a junior right holder upstream to release a sufficient volume of water to satisfy the senior water right holder.  A junior water rights holder downstream has no ability to force an upstream senior rights holder to release any water to the junior rights holder.

One important exception to the “first in time” rule covers water used by landowners abutting the surface water resource for their “domestic and livestock” (D&L) uses.  The D&L water right is one of the most senior rights in surface water, generally without regard to when the landowner begins that use.

Key issues involved in filing a senior water right call include:

  • developing a model to reliably estimate your total water use if you are not metering your water supply
  • independently verifying the TCEQ’s conclusions on the relative priority of water rights in the relevant basin
  • considering the effect of new environmental flows requirements on the surface water resource

Visit our Hot Topics-Water Rights page  where you will find information about Texas’ surface water resources, and how state law regulates surface water use.


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