OTIS A. SINGLETARY, Editor
The Spanish Element in Texas Water Law. By Betty Eakle Dob-
kins. Austin (University of Texas Press), i959. Pp. xiii+ 190.
Illustrations, maps, bibliography. $5.00.
This book fills an important gap in one of the most significant
aspects of Texas history by tracing, from its origin, the Spanish
element still present today in Texas laws relating to water rights.
A great deal has been written on this subject by attorneys, but
most of what has been said has been approached by the advocate
rather than by the historian.
As the writer has stated in her preface: "In American history
the significance of land, especially in terms of the frontier, has
been spelled out in large letters. The importance of water has
been recognized by a few."
Texas water law has its roots deep in the Hispanic Civil Law
for more reasons than one. Title to some 280,000 acres in Texas
originated in grants from the Crown of Spain or the Republic
of Mexico. Under Texas law, the grantee under a prior sovereign
acquired only those rights which were fixed in the laws of the
prior sovereign. It is therefore necessary for the courts of modern
Texas to look to the ancient laws of Spain and Mexico to de-
termine the extent of rights so granted. Much of the confusion
that is still present today results from a lack of a thorough under-
standing of the historical background from which Texas' laws
emerged. Although the writer does not advocate any particular
legal viewpoint, she has filled in the details of history so necessary
for a proper understanding of even the present-day legal argu-
ments on the subject.
After describing briefly some of the problems in Texas con-
cerning water rights, the writer traces the history of Spanish and
Mexican law to its origin in the Near East where western civil-
ization itself originated. The book reviews the water laws and
institutions of ancient Rome and proceeds to set forth in detail
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 63, July 1959 - April, 1960. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101186/. Accessed December 21, 2013.