Texas Supreme Court to Determine Whether Accommodation Doctrine Applies to Groundwater Rights

The Texas Supreme Court has granted a petition for review in Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC v. The City of Lubbock.  Oral argument is scheduled for October 14, 2015.  The issue presented by the case is whether the accommodation doctrine as historically applied to the relationship between the owners of the surface estate and the mineral estate also applies to the owners of the surface estate and groundwater rights.

The City of Lubbock owns groundwater rights under a tract of land based on a 1953 deed.  Coyote Lake Ranch (“CLR”) owns the surface estate.  The City proposed a water well plan on CLR’s land and CLR sued to enjoin the City from moving forward with it plan.  The trial court granted a temporary injunction against the City based upon the accommodation doctrine.  The City appealed to the Amarillo Court of Appeals, which reversed the trial court holding that the accommodation doctrine does not apply to the relationship between the surface estate and the groundwater estate.  CLR filed a petition for review to the Texas Supreme Court.

This case presents a novel question under Texas law.  While the accommodation doctrine is well established in oil and gas law as applying to the relationship between the severed surface estate and the mineral estate, no Texas cases have applied the doctrine to severed groundwater.  The result of this case could have implications for other tracts of land where the surface and water estates have been severed and may require the owner of the groundwater to accommodate existing surface use in developing the water estate.

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