In Texas, surface water is owned and regulated by the State of Texas, whereas groundwater is owned by respective property owners under the rule of capture. Owners of surface water rights, issued by the state, and groundwater may use and sell their water as a private property right. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality administers surface water rights, while groundwater conservation districts (where they exist) are primarily responsible for permitting groundwater use. This paper focuses on the complexity of both systems that are designed to manage water resources differently with specific emphasis on where surface water and groundwater interact. Surface water-groundwater interactions have contributed to disputes over the actual ownership and right to water. The available science and the limitations of the models currently used to make water availability and permitting determinations are discussed, as are the investments in field data gathering and interpretation and model enhancements that can lead to better assessments of surface water-groundwater interactions and impacts. More complete science and enhanced models may also help reduce the timeline associated with the permitting of future water supply and use strategies.
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