“As with most Texas rivers, the water flowing between the Brazos’ banks is already spoken for. In the late 1800s, Texas began selling off surface water rights to the first bidder—creating a “first in time, first in right,” system. On the Lower Brazos, Dow is one of the majority shareholders. Most of Dow’s rights date back to 1942, meaning its water use has legal priority over anyone with newer rights…..
‘We’ve issued a whole lot of water rights—basically more water rights than there really is water in the river during dry years,’ noted Myron Hess, a water policy attorney affiliated with the Texas Living Waters Project, a consortium of conservation groups. When most rights were issued, the state ignored the need to leave some water in rivers to protect ecosystems, he said.
As the climate warms, the problems will get worse. A 2021 report from the state climatologist’s office at Texas A&M University explains that Texas might see slightly more rain in the future, especially in the form of extreme storms. But rising temperatures will lead to more evaporation from soil and surface water, worsening the consequences of droughts and causing greater evaporation from reservoirs.