The TCEQ administers water rights in Texas, issues new and amended water rights and certificates of adjudication, and cancels water rights. Except in areas of the state that are managed by a watermaster program, managing water during times of water shortage and enforcing water rights is limited.
Evaluating Possible New Programs: TCEQ is currently evaluating whether additional basins may need a watermaster program.
- What Watermasters Do
- Map of Watermaster Areas
- How a Watermaster Program Is Established
- How the Advisory Committees Were Established
What Watermasters Do
The TCEQ’s watermaster programs ensure compliance with water rights by monitoring stream flows, reservoir levels, and water use. Watermasters also coordinate diversions and regulate reservoirs as needed to prevent the wasting of water or its being used in quantities beyond a user's right.
Before diverting, a water-right holder must notify the watermaster of the intent to divert at a specific time and the specific amount of water to be diverted. If the water is available and the water-right holder will not exceed its annual authorized appropriation of water, the watermaster then authorizes the diversion and records this against the right. The two watermaster programs include staff “deputies” who daily, weekly, or monthly make field inspections of authorized diversions to insure compliance with the water right (e.g., that the diversion rate is not exceeded).
If a water-right holder does not comply with his or her water right or the rules of the Commission, the executive director may direct the watermaster to adjust the control works to prevent the owner from diverting, taking, storing, or distributing water until he or she complies.
As provided by the Texas Water Code, the TCEQ collects fees from all water right holders within the watermaster’s jurisdiction in order to pay for the expenses of the watermaster’s operations and duties. An account is maintained for each water-right owner based on each type of authorized use under the water right. The total assessment per account comprises two fees: a base fee charged on each account and a use fee charged on the total number of acre-feet of water the owner is authorized to divert per year for each authorized use. The current base fee is $50 per account and generally does not change from year to year. The use fee is calculated each year and is based on the proposed operating budget for each watermaster program.
Map of Watermaster Areas
How a Watermaster Program Is Established
Under the Texas Water Code, Section 11.325 , water divisions may be created from time to time as the need arises. Water divisions are created to protect the holders of water rights while keeping the costs of state supervision reasonable. The executive director of the TCEQ may appoint a watermaster to an established water division. The TCEQ may also authorize the executive director to appoint a watermaster in a river basin or river segment on its own motion or upon receipt of a petition of 25 or more holders of water rights in the river basin or segment of a river basin. This requires a hearing before the commission where persons may present testimony and evidence either in support of, or against, the petition. The legislature may also establish a watermaster program by statute.
How the Advisory Committees Were Established
In 1997, the Texas Legislature amended Texas Water Code 11.326–27 to require the executive director of the TCEQ to establish a Watermaster Advisory Committee for each of the state’s watermaster programs. The Rio Grande Watermaster Advisory Committee and the South Texas Watermaster Advisory Committee were established in January 1998. These committees are made up of a minimum of nine and a maximum of 15 members, who are holders of water rights or representatives of holders of water rights in the water division of a watermaster. In appointing the members, the executive director considers geographic representation, amount of water rights held, different types of holders of water rights and users such as water districts, municipal suppliers, irrigators, and industrial users, and experience and knowledge in water management practices. WAC members serve two-year terms and are not entitled to reimbursement of expenses or to compensation for participation on the committee.
The Concho River Watermaster Advisory Committee was created by House Bill 2815 during the 79th Legislative Session, 2005. The Concho River Watermaster Advisory Committee consists of 13 members appointed by the executive director as follows:
- six members selected from nominations received, one representing the City of Paint Rock and one representing each of the following stream segments or tributaries of the Concho River: Spring Creek, Dove Creek, South Concho, Middle Concho, and main stem of the Concho below Certificate of Adjudication No. 14-1337 (River Order No. 5460010000);
- six members selected from a list of candidates submitted by the City of San Angelo; and
- one member selected at the executive director's discretion.
The WAC’s responsibilities include:
- providing recommendations to the executive director regarding activities of benefit to the holders of water rights in the administration and distribution of water to holders of water rights;
- review and comment to the executive director on the annual budget of the watermaster operations; and
- other duties as may be requested by the executive director with regard to the watermaster operations or as requested by holders of water rights in a water division which the committee deems of benefit to the administration of water rights in water divisions.