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Rio Grande Watermaster Program

The Rio Grande Watermaster Program administers water rights in the Rio Grande River Basin, from Fort Quitman to the Gulf of Mexico.

Important information Temporary water right applications should be submitted directly to our Watermaster email box at

Please submit any payments for temporary water right applications to:

TCEQ Central Office
Mail Code 160, PO Box 13087
Austin, Texas 78711-3087
Epay is also available to electronically submit payments for temporary water use permits for up to 10 acre-feet and up to one calendar year.

About the Rio Grande Watermaster Program

This Watermaster program was established after a lawsuit between the State of Texas vs. HCWC&ID No. 18 and others was finalized in 1971, resulting in the final adjudication of the Lower Rio Grande water rights.

In the Rio Grande basin above Lake Amistad (the Upper Rio Grande), water rights are managed using a “first in time, first in right” priority system, as they are in other parts of Texas. Water rights in the Middle and Lower Rio Grande are served by the Falcon-Amistad reservoir system. Water below Lake Amistad is allocated on an account basis, much like having a bank account with a constantly changing balance. Priority is given to all municipal accounts, which means that at the beginning of each year the storage balance for each municipal account resets to its full authorized water-right amount. The municipal priority is guaranteed by the monthly reestablishment of a municipal reserve in the system of 225,000 acre-feet, which is equivalent to one year of average diversions for all municipal demands below Amistad for Texas users.

Irrigation accounts, on the other hand, must rely on balances that are carried forward, as irrigation accounts are not reset at the beginning of the year. Each month the watermaster determines how much unallocated water assigned to the United States is contained in the Falcon-Amistad system. If surplus water is identified in a given month, it is allocated to the irrigation accounts. When water is used, it is subtracted from the respective account by type of use from the account’s usable balance. This system of accounting for water usage was put in place after an international treaty with Mexico was established, and in accordance with a 1969 District Court ruling.


River Basin Counties
Rio Grande Brewster, Cameron, Dimmit, Hidalgo, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Jim Hogg, Kinney, Maverick, Presidio, Starr, Terrell, Val Verde, Webb, Willacy, Zapata

Duties of the Watermaster

Duties include:

  • coordinating releases and diversions
  • monitoring stream flow, reservoir levels, and water use within the basin
  • enforcing compliance with water rights
  • responding to complaints

Rio Grande Watermaster Advisory Committee

Advisory Committee

The Rio Grande Watermaster Advisory Committee was established in January 1998 in accordance with the Texas Water Code Section (§)11.3261.

Offers to Sell or Contract Water in the Rio Grande

In accordance with Section 49.504(b)(2)(A) of the Texas Water Code, advertisements to sell or contract for the use of water is to be posted for a period of 90 days.

Rio Grande Watermaster
1804 West Jefferson Avenue
Harlingen, Texas 78550-5247
Voice: (956) 430-6056 Toll Free: (800) 609-1219 Fax: (956) 430-6052 E-mail: