Client Alert: Application of Accommodation Doctrine to Groundwater Rights in Texas

In Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC v. The City of Lubbock, the Texas Supreme Court held that the accommodation doctrine applies to the resolution of conflicts between a severed groundwater estate and the surface estate, when such conflicts are not governed by the express terms of an agreement binding the parties. The accommodation doctrine in Texas has been applied in the context of a severed mineral estate, but unlike the mineral estate, groundwater rights are generally considered to be part of the rights associated with the surface estate. This can create issues between the owner of the surface, who may have desires to use the surface for matters unrelated to groundwater extraction, and the owner of the groundwater rights, who will typically need to use some portion of the surface in order to extract the groundwater.  The primary issue presented for the Coyote Lake Ranch Court’s determination was whether the accommodation doctrine should be extended and applied to the relationship between a landowner and the owner of an interest in the groundwater, and the Coyote Lake Ranch Court held that the accommodation doctrine should be applied.