Sharing the Common Pool: Water Rights in the Everyday Lives of Texans

Overview


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. In Sharing the Common Pool: Water Rights in the Everyday Lives of Texans, water rights expert Charles Porter explains in the simplest possible terms who has rights to the water in Texas, who determines who has those ...
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Sharing the Common Pool: Water Rights in the Everyday Lives of Texans

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Overview


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. In Sharing the Common Pool: Water Rights in the Everyday Lives of Texans, water rights 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.

The origins of Texas water law, which contains elements of the state’s Spanish, English, and Republic heritages, contributed to the development of a system that defines water by where it sits, flows, or falls and assigns its ownership accordingly. Over time, this seemingly logical, even workable, set of expectations has evolved into a tortuous collection of laws, permits, and governing authorities under the onslaught of population growth and competing interests—agriculture, industry, cities—all with insatiable thirsts.

In sections that cover ownership, use, regulation, real estate, and policy, Porter lays out in as straightforward a fashion as possible just how we manage (and mismanage) water in this state, what legal cases have guided the debate, and where the future might take us as old rivalries, new demands, and innovative technologies—such as hydraulic fracturing of oil shale formations (“fracking”)—help redefine water policy.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-02
Porter (History/St. Edward's Univ.) addresses the legal, social, economic and environmental consequences of our present water rights system, a serious disaster in the making. Although the author focuses his investigation on the fresh water situation in Texas, his arguments are widely applicable. Simply put, there is a finite amount of fresh water on the planet, timelessly moving through the hydrologic cycle, which is too often being hogged by irrigators or befouled by one form of human use or another. Porter approaches the water issue from two angles: how to secure a sustainable water-use system and how water is going to impinge on the value of real estate. Each state has laws regarding who owns water: surface water, as in water moving through a course; diffused surface water, as in water that runs off a roof and over the ground in an undefined pattern; and aquifers and underground pools. But water is fugitive, always in motion and vexatious to lawmakers since it rarely stays still long enough to tag it with ownership rights. Porter ably describes the looming crisis. Without specific regional water plans—determining demand, supply, social and economic impacts, strategies and options to meet growing needs, and all the infrastructural requirements to maximize water use—shortages are a given. How are we going to balance common good with private right? Anyone upstream is at an advantage; anyone with a large-capacity pump can command a greater share of the aquifer. Without use laws in place, things will get nasty quickly. Porter has an easy, professorial voice, eschewing hysterics but providing a cautionary note that carries a weight of understanding and experience. He also gives advice about simple lifestyle changes to conserve water: from showering and brushing your teeth to dripping faucets and low-flow toilets, dishwashers and dishwashing detergent. An intelligent, elegant call to action in the defense of fresh water.
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Product Details

Meet the Author


CHARLES R. PORTER is an assistant professor of history at St. Edward’s University in Austin and a licensed real estate agent and broker. He has been a presenter and panel moderator for the Texas legislature, at the Texas Groundwater Summit, and at a joint conference of the Texas Rural Water Association and Texas Water Conservation Association.
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