Irrigation districts were created to deliver untreated water throughout their jurisdictions for irrigation and to provide drainage. These districts are governed by elected boards of directors and have the power to levy and collect taxes, borrow money, and have eminent domain powers. They are self-governing sub-divisions of the state government; however, irrigation districts can only be formed with the consent of landowners within the area and legislative approval.

What does this mean for the real estate industry?

These districts are created and dissolved with the consent of property owners; however, as property is sold, transparency problems can arise in the transfer, which can negatively affect real estate transactions.

Texas REALTORS® position

Texas REALTORS® believes that property owners and potential buyers should be able to access all relevant and public information related to easements and other encumbrances by governmental or private entities on their property. We support strengthening provisions pertaining to the recording of irrigation districts’ encumbrances on real property by ensuring such information is recorded with the County Clerk in which the property is located.

Legislative outlook

The Legislature is likely to examine a full spectrum of proposals that relate to the authority of political subdivisions, including special entities such as irrigation districts. While the creation of such districts has typically been seen as a localized issue, interplay between state and local governing bodies will be under increased scrutiny as Texas emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, there may be a good opportunity to include consumer-friendly reforms of these special districts that further protect property rights in the upcoming legislative session.

Historical perspective

The Texas Legislature first authorized the creation of irrigation districts in 1905. The law was then replaced in 1913 by a new irrigation act providing that districts could be established by a county election. Since the original statute was replaced in 1913, legislators have detailed the required process to gain public consent to form an irrigation districts, with the most comprehensive statute restructure taking place in 1977.