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Keeping Tabs On A Precious Commodity

January 21, 2003

Stewart Water Information To Provide Water Rights Title Insurance In Texas

HOUSTON - You turn on the tap and it's there. Stand in the shower and it's there. Most of us probably don't care where our water actually comes from, as long as it's there when we need it.

For real estate buyers and sellers, the availability of water on a site can make or break a deal. Stewart Information Services Corp. (NYSE: STC) understands the important role that water, as a natural resource, plays in population growth and land development. Stewart has put its 100-plus years of real estate experience to work to meet the needs of developers and municipalities in places where water is scarce and highly regulated. The result is title insurance for water rights interests, a new subject of title insurance being offered in Texas in conjunction with Stewart subsidiary Stewart Water Information, LLC.

"Increasing population in dry Western states, such as Texas, has left many streams, rivers and ground water sources overappropriated, leaving no water for suitable new users," said Joe Knox, president, Stewart Water Information. "As a result, water rights often are being bought and sold much like real estate itself, and it is very important to validate the source's ownership."

Title insurance for water rights works in a similar fashion as title insurance for real property. Stewart Water's experts research water rights ownership and prepare reports for individuals, businesses, lenders, planners or anyone seeking such information. Stewart Water then takes it one step further, backing its work with a title insurance policy underwritten by Stewart Title Guaranty Co.

"Historically, attorneys and engineers have prepared water right abstracts for individuals and businesses seeking ownership information on water rights, because water rights title insurance was not available," said Knox. "Stewart Water Information is the first company of its kind to offer water rights information on a statewide basis and the first to offer title insurance on those water rights."

Stewart Water is licensed in Colorado and Utah for the sale of title insurance including title insurance for water rights, and demand for the product exists in other states as well. In Texas, Stewart Water is working in conjunction with the Stewart Title Guaranty Co. network of agents to provide title insurance for water rights interests.
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The importance of water is underscored in "Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2002" a study by Lend Lease Corp. and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The report calls water an even more critical issue than power in real estate development, noting,

"In some regions it's become an increasingly precious commodity and promised to complicate both development growth and livability prospects. … water - either its quantity or its quality - will eventually place growth restraints on many booming regions of our country…" ("Emerging Trends," p. 45)

For information on title insurance for water rights interests in Texas, contact Joe Knox, president, Stewart Water Information, toll free 888-353-6760, or e-mail info@stewartwater.com.

Source: Stewart Information Services Corp.



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