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Understanding Surface Water Permitting

By Kate Lindekugel

April 5, 2013


According to state laws, a permit application may need to be filed to obtain water rights.

Surface water is readily available for multiple activities, such as hydrostatic testing, hydraulic fracturing, or just keeping the dust settled on a construction site. Before putting a pump in the nearby creek or pond to get the water, a permit might be required.

Water acquisition permits may be necessary if surface waters (lake, pond, stream, creek, etc) are used for certain activities. Each state has a set of laws pertaining to water rights, and those laws can be quite cumbersome. Applying for a permit takes patience and knowledge of the permitting process.

Who needs a permit? Generally speaking, farmers, ranchers, cities, industries, businesses and other private/public interests are granted water rights. If surface water is needed, then a permit is most likely necessary.

Why is a permit necessary? Basically, there is only so much water available at any given time. That water must meet the needs of all those asking for permission to use. Without a permit process in place, certain water bodies may not have enough water to meet demands. By limiting use through permits, water needs can be met on a regular basis.

Where to get a permit? Each state has an agency that oversees water permitting. In Texas, for example, water permits are issued through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The state is responsible for tracking all permits to ensure water gets to the appropriate user.

Whether impounding a creek or pumping water from a stream, a water acquisition permit may be necessary. Check state regulations or contact RS&H for assistance.

Topics: Insights, Ecological Resource News, Environmental, Water Resources

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About the Author

As an environmental scientist, Kate has more than 13 years of experience including ecological surveys and field studies, functional assessments, preparing environmental reports and permits, data management, stream channel and wetland restoration, peer reviewed research, and coordinating with local, state, and federal regulatory agencies, as well as public and private stakeholders.

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