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 regularly evaluates 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
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 watermaster programs include staff “deputies” who perform regular field inspections of authorized diversions to insure compliance with the water right.
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 operations. Accounts are maintained for water right owners 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 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
There are three ways that a watermaster program can be established under the Texas Water Code:
- The ED may appoint a watermaster to an established water division. 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.
- A watermaster may be court-appointed.
- Upon receipt of a petition of 25 or more water right holders in a river basin or segment of a river basin, or on its own motion, the Commission may appoint a watermaster if the commission finds that senior water rights have been threatened.
The legislature may also establish a watermaster program by statute.
What is a Watermaster Advisory Committee?
The Texas Water Code requires TCEQ to establish watermaster advisory committees.
- Section 11.3261 requires that a WAC be appointed to an established watermaster area. This currently applies to the Rio Grande Watermaster and the South Texas Watermaster.
- Section 11.557 specifically describes the Concho River WAC.
- Section 11.4531 provides requirements for a WAC in Commission-established watermaster programs, such as the new Brazos Watermaster Program.
The Rio Grande Watermaster Advisory Committee and the South Texas Watermaster Advisory Committee were established in January 1998. The Brazos Watermaster Advisory Committee was established in March 2015.
- Each of these committees includes between 9 and 15 members. WAC members must be water right holders or representatives of water right holders in the watermaster area.
- 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 in 2005 by House Bill 2815 during the 79th Legislative Session. This WAC 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 responsibilities of the WACs include:
- providing recommendations to the watermaster regarding water administration and distribution activities that would benefit water rights holders;
- reviewing and providing input to the executive director on the proposed annual budget of the watermaster operations; and
- providing assistance as requested by the watermaster program or water right holders.