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Water law is the field of law concerned with the ownership, control, and use of water resources, both surface and subsurface. Although most closely related to property law, recent developments in other legal fields, especially in environmental law, have heavily influenced the interpretation, application, and development of water law. As a result, water law today encompasses a broad perspective and often takes into account individual and community rights, environmental issues, commerce and economics, and other societal and legal concerns.

Significantly, modern water law is also an interdisciplinary practice. In light of the continuously expanding body of knowledge of the hydrologic cycle, groundwater flow, wetlands, and fresh water resources, in general, the field has expanded to include scientific considerations related to the management, use, and allocation of fresh water resources. It is now no longer enough merely to be versed in water law. Rather, a water lawyer today must understand technical concepts such as hydrostatic pressure and Darcy’s law, flow regimes and drainage basins, and consumptive uses and crop yields.

Ultimately, though, water law advances societal values and goals related to fresh water resources. It is a means for bridging the gap between the demand for water and the availability of the resource. And therein lays the challenge - learning to practice water law to better society as well as to ensure the client’s interests.

Section I of this chapter provides an overview of the scientific, legal, and ethical foundations that are pertinent to Texas water law. Section II discusses the availability of fresh water in Texas and beyond, and Section III addresses the hydrologic cycle and its relevance to water law. Section IV covers some of the basic concepts of the science of water that are particularly significant for understanding and applying water law. Last, Sections V and VI discuss the value and ethic of water.

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State Bar of Texas


Austin, TX


Mary K. Sahs

Book Title

Essentials of Texas Water Resources

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