Q&A: Water Rights in Texas with
Charles R. Porter, Ph.D.

Real estate, water rights, and construction expert Charles Porter talks with SVP Dallas about where Dallas-Fort Worth stands in relation to water policy and rights.

Dr. Charles Porter [Courtesy of SVP Dallas]

Social Venture Partners Dallas is a Dallas Innovates is Silver Founding SponsorCharles Porter, Ph.D., Real Estate, Water Rights, & Construction Expert, will headline the fourth installment of SVP Dallas’ 2017 Social Innovation Luncheon Series with his talk, “Sharing the Common Pool: Water Rights in the Everyday Lives of Texans.”

Dr. Porter is a visiting professor in the College of Arts and Humanities-University Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He has a Doctor of Philosophy in economics and business, and is an award-winning author and speaker nationwide. Since 1987, Dr. Porter has served as an expert witness for the courts of the nation over 600 times. Dr. Porter will be talking about who the key players are in Texas water policy and how water ownership and management

Dr. Porter will be talking about who the key players are in Texas water policy, and how water ownership and management impacts land values, property taxes, and, in turn, social issues.  As described in his most recent book, “if all the people, municipalities, agencies, businesses, power plants, and other entities that think they have a right to the water in Texas actually tried to exercise those rights, there would not be enough water to satisfy all claims, no matter how legitimate.” Expert Charles Porter explains in the simplest possible terms who has rights to the water in Texas, who determines who has those rights, and who benefits or suffers because of it.

Expert Charles Porter explains in the simplest possible terms who has rights to the water in Texas, who determines who has those rights, who benefits or suffers because of it — where the Dallas-Fort Worth area stands in relation to water policy and rights.

He took a moment to talk with SVP Dallas about where the Dallas-Fort Worth area stands in relation to water policy and rights. The following Q+A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

How would you characterize the current state of Texas water policy?

The current state of Texas water policy is best characterized as disjointed, disconnected, and misunderstood by the general public.

Our overall statewide water policy in its current form is not based upon natures own hydrologic cycle.  Surface water is owned by the state of Texas and managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Groundwater is owned by the private landowner above it and is managed by 100 groundwater conservation districts with different rules, regulations, and cultures. Not all areas of the state are yet under the jurisdiction of a local groundwater conservation district. Yet, surface and groundwater are conjunctively related by nature — a change in one impacts changes in the other. Groundwater and aquifers feed rivers and streams as surface water feeds aquifers and groundwater pools.

Local control of groundwater is especially important in a state with our vast geographical differences.

Local control of groundwater is especially important in a state with our vast geographical differences. [For example,] the worst drought in Beaumont history is 15 inches of rain in a year. That’s almost double the normal rainfall of El Paso.

A one-size-fits-all water policy will not work in our state, but all Texans have to have fair, transparent, and accepted public water policies to meet our projected growth and its demands on our scarce water resources.

These water policy challenges exist in continual conflict among Texas agencies and private interests, all of which are under the bludgeon of the confusing and complicated supra-legal jurisdiction of the federal government.

Texas water policy is a living, evolving public interest social issue that must be met at all times.

Why are Texas water policy and rights important to Dallas-Fort Worth?

No city can survive without safe, acceptable, and adequate water resources. 

No city can survive without safe, acceptable, and adequate water resources.

The norm for Texas is drought — in fact, we tend to live in a state that is either in drought or deluge.

Not only does Dallas-Fort Worth need to always seek new water sources, but [it] also must be cognizant of the ongoing need for improved conservation of the way we use water. 

Additionally, DFW water policy not only comprises finding fresh water resources, but also — and critically — the way DFW deals with sanitary and storm sewage drastically impacts the quality of all water, not only in the immediate area, but for their neighbors downstream all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

What social issues are impacted by water rights in the DFW area?

Doubtless, our most cherished social value in Texas is a public school education for our children through the 12th grade, funded by ad valorem taxes, or taxes based on property values. The fair market value of land without water is greatly less than the fair market value land with water.  For example, if DFW finds in the next 30 years the need to seek groundwater to meet their water demand, likely that groundwater will come from rural areas.

But what happens to the rural area’s ad valorem tax base? What happens to the financial sources for the schools and hospitals that serve the rural area?  If the schools and hospitals weaken, it is certain the rural population will decline.  Which lifestyle should have priority in Texas, urban or rural?  

Another social issue involving water in DFW is sanitary sewage treatment for both older neighborhoods and their decaying infrastructure, as well as in the new growth areas.  The simple way to control growth is to control sanitary sewage treatment capacity by sewage plant expansion or reduction.  Which areas of town should have the newest, safest, and highest capacity in sanitary sewage treatment plants?  

These are only two of the social issues involving water policy for DFW.  There are many, many others.

Which city could serve as a water policy model for DFW?

There are two cities in Texas that are making real progress in meeting their water challenges: El Paso and San Antonio.

Both exist in more than usual Texas drought-prone areas. San Antonio has no surface water source. It exists on groundwater from the Edward’s Aquifer only.  El Paso cannot depend on the fickle, silted-up, declining Rio Grande River for its water.

San Antonio and El Paso responded to being surrounded by water challenges by attacking in all directions at once.

El Paso built the nation’s largest inland desalination plant. San Antonio is leading the stage in aquifer storage and recovery technology.

El Paso and San Antonio are reaching in every direction in their purchase, lease, and acquisition of water rights. Both cities allocate massive financial resources towards meeting their long-term water needs, while at the same time leading the state in water conservation.


EVENT DETAILS

Wed. Aug. 30, 2017

SHARING THE COMMON POOL
Magnolia Hotel Dallas Park Cities
6070 N. Central Expressway, in Dallas
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

SVP Dallas will host a lunch and learn headlining Charles R. Porter, real estate, water rights, and construction expert.

Tickets are $50 before the event and $55 at the door.
Purchase tickets and find more information here.


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