St. Mary's Law Journal


It is the constitutional duty of the State of Texas to conserve and develop the state’s water resources. Texas effectuates water conservation and utilization through its system of granting and administering rights for the beneficial use of the state’s water. The Supreme Court of Texas concluded the state can further conserve water by cancelling appropriations not beneficially used to the limit provided in the permit, certified filing, or certificate of adjudication. Cancellation of unused water rights enables the Water Commission to make water available for beneficial use by others. Only by the beneficial use of water can the state obtain the maximum benefit from this precious resource and prevent its waste. Texas has three types of cancellations. First, failure to diligently complete a project for taking or storing water can result in forfeiture and cancellation. Second, a water right holder forfeits their right to use the state’s water if he willfully abandons it for three successive years. Third, ten consecutive years of non-beneficial use can result in cancellation in whole or in part of water rights. As the population and economy of Texas grow, the state will receive increasing demands to control the state’s water resources. Further, the Texas legislature will receive increased pressure to shorten the period of nonuse and to provide for quicker cancellation procedures. Unless the legislature intervenes, the state will inevitably begin extensive cancellation proceedings to fulfill its constitutional duty to conserve its valuable water resource. The water right holder must acknowledge these growing demands and beneficially use the water appropriated or lose the right.


St. Mary's University School of Law