Sitting for the court: Justice Paul W. Green, Justice Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, Justice Phil Johnson, Justice David Medina, Justice Dale Wainwright, Justice Don R. Willett, Justice Scott A. Brister, Justice Harriet O'Neill
Guitar Holding Co., L.P. v. Hudspeth County Underground Water Conservation District No. 1, et al.
from Hudspeth County and the Eighth District Court of Appeals, El Paso
For petitioner: Joseph L. Hood Jr., El Paso; Russell S. Johnson, Austin
For respondents: Renea Hicks and Lambeth Townsend, Austin
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue of whether conservation district’s restrictions on new water-transfer application violate state law and landowner’s equal-protection rights. The issues in this water-transfer challenge arising from an attempt by El Paso to buy and transfer water from nearby Hudspeth County are (1) whether the conservation district’s transfer rules violate state law prohibiting more restrictive conditions on out-of-district transfer applications and (2) whether the district’s transfer rules violate the landowner’s equal-protection rights. As part of its aquifer-conservation plan, the Hudspeth County district imposed restrictions on transferring water based on historical water use. That means, in this case, Guitar, which had not used as much water in the past as smaller landowners, could not transfer as much water as the smaller landowners. Guitar argues that those restrictions violate provisions of Senate Bill 2, an amendment to the comprehensive groundwater law enacted in 1997. The trial court held the conservation district’s rules valid. The appeals court affirmed.