Texas’ rivers are iconic. The groundwater that sustains them is invisible.

We see the dichotomy in state law. Naturally flowing water in rivers and streams is owned by the state and held in trust for the public good. That’s because we can see that water and what it means. It provides for our cities, towns, farms, and ranches. We live, work and play beside it. And we rely on state law to prevent it from vanishing.

But groundwater law offers far less protection. In many areas of Texas, people have the right to pump as much groundwater as they want. Even where groundwater is managed by local conservation districts, the law allows overpumping to occur, causing groundwater levels to decline.

Read more from Vanessa Puig-Williams, director of Environmental Defense Fund’s Texas Water Program and Hill Country Alliance Board President, with the Austin American-Statesman here.