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Watermasters: What They Do and How They're Created

What watermasters do, water right holder’s fees that fund the programs, and how programs are established.

What Watermasters Do

  • Ensure compliance with water rights by monitoring stream flows, reservoir levels, and water use.
  • Coordinate diversions and regulate reservoirs to prevent water from being wasted or used in excess of a water right.

When notified of the intent to divert a specific amount of water at a specific time, a watermaster may authorize and record the diversion IF water is available and IF the diversion won’t exceed the water right holder’s annual authorized appropriation of water. 

Watermaster deputies conduct regular inspections. If a water right holder doesn’t comply with a water right or the rules, the watermaster may prevent the owner from diverting, taking, storing, or distributing water until the issue is corrected.

Program Fees

To pay for the operating expenses of the program, the TCEQ collects fees from all water right holders within the watermaster’s jurisdiction. Accounts are maintained for each type of authorized use under a water right. The total assessment per account includes two fees:

  1. a base fee, currently $50 per account

    • This fee generally does not change from year to year.

  2. a use fee, charged on the total number of acre-feet of water for each authorized use

    • The use fee is calculated each year and is based on the proposed operating budget for each watermaster program.

How a Watermaster Program is Established

Under the Texas Water Code, a watermaster may be appointed:

  • by the TCEQ, for an established water division.  Water divisions may be created from time to time as needed, to protect water rights holders, while keeping the costs of state supervision reasonable; (TWC, Section 11.325Exit the TCEQ)

  • by the TCEQ if senior water rights have been threatened, and 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; or

  • by the court.

By statute: 

  • The legislature may also establish a watermaster program.

Map of the Watermaster Areas:

Watermaster jurisdiction map

 Contact Information

TCEQ Watermaster Section
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087          
(512) 239-4600