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Water Rights and Water Use During Drought

Answers to common questions about water rights and water use, who may be exempt such as domestic and livestock users, how to find out who has a water rights permit, and information about priority dates, junior and senior rights, and the Prior Appropriation Doctrine.

Is my neighbor permitted to take water out of the stream?

A person may only take (divert) water from a state watercourse if they have a permit or the diversions are exempt from permitting requirements.

What are domestic and livestock purposes?

A person is exempt from the permitting requirements if they live adjacent to a state watercourse and they are using the water for domestic and livestock purposes.

Domestic Use

The use of water by an individual or a household to support domestic activity including:

  • drinking, washing or culinary purposes
  • irrigation of lawns, or of a family garden and/or orchard
  • watering of domestic animals
  • water recreation including aquatic and wildlife enjoyment

Domestic use does not include water used to support activities for which compensation is given or received or for which the product of the activity is sold.

Livestock Use

The use of water for:

  • open-range watering of livestock, exotic livestock, game animals or fur-bearing animals

Exempt livestock use does NOT include irrigation of crops, even for livestock grazing, because irrigation is an agricultural use of water and requires a water right.

For purposes of this definition, the terms livestock and exotic livestock are to be used as defined in 142.001 of the Agricultural Code 63.001 71.001

Chapter 30, Texas Administrative Code, Section 297.1

Are there other uses that are exempt from the permitting requirement?

Other exemptions from the permitting requirement are less common. They can be found in Section 11.142 of the Texas Water Code

Can you send someone out to look at the creek, pond, etc.?

If you have any questions about the enforcement of water rights, contact your watermaster or region office

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What is the Prior Appropriation Doctrine? What are senior and junior rights?

The Prior Appropriation Doctrine can be summed up by first in time, first in right. The first water rights (senior water rights) must be satisfied before the later water rights (junior water rights). If curtailment of water becomes necessary, junior water rights may be curtailed.

What is a priority date?

The priority date of a water right establishes a place in line of junior and senior water rights. It is the determining factor when water rights are cut back or curtailed in times of shortage, regardless of the type of use of a permitted right.

How do I find out whether someone has a water rights permit and if so, what their priority date is?

See the Texas Surface Water Rights Viewer. The Water Rights Viewer includes information about water-rights authorizations and other water-related information. A user can find information about the location of authorized water rights points, a copy of the water right and the Adjudication Final Determination, current ownership of the water right, recent water use data, and TCEQ’s adopted environmental flow standards.

What is a temporary water right permit?

Temporary permits are issued to use surplus water during wetter times for a period of 3 years or less.  In drought or other shortage, these water rights are the first to be curtailed.

Where can I find more information about water rights?

Surface Water Rights and Availability

Water rights in Texas, water conservation plans, drought contingency plans, environmental flows, and ensuring compliance.

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