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Texas New Water Right Process For Surface Water and Groundwater (19-TX-b)

The procedures and regulations for acquiring water vary depending on the location of the water and whether it is groundwater or surface water.

New Water Right Process For Surface Water and Groundwater

19-TX-b.1 – Is the Source Surface Water or Groundwater?

In general surface water rights are administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under a prior appropriation system (Tex. Water Code, Title 2, Chapter 11 Water Rights); while, groundwater rights belong to the surface owner and are dictated by the rule-of-capture.

19-TX-b.2 to 19-TX-b.4 - Is the Surface Water Use Temporary?

Texas allows developers to obtain a Temporary Water Permit for surface water if the use will not interfere with or adversely affect other water rights.

Temporary Surface Water Permit:

Perpetual surface water rights require a Surface Water Permit from the TCEQ.

Surface Water Permit:

Perpetual surface water rights can also be transferred.

Transfer of Surface Water Right:

19-TX-b.5 to 19-TX-b.6 – Does the Developer Own the Overlying Land?

In Texas, the right to acquire and pump groundwater is tied to the ownership of the land overlying the groundwater aquifer.

If the developer does not own the overlying land then the developer must obtain the surface rights to the land to acquire the right to the groundwater beneath. Otherwise the developer must purchase the required groundwater from the surface owner.

19-TX-b.7 – Is the Groundwater Source in the Edwards Aquifer, an Groundwater Conservation District, or an unrestricted area?

There are numerous locations in Texas where the pumping and use of groundwater is regulated and restricted.

If the groundwater well is located in a conservation district or the Edwards Aquifer then a permit may be required to use and pump groundwater. A permit may also be required to drill the groundwater well. Additionally, there may be export restrictions on transporting water pumped in a conservation district out of the district.

19-TX-b.8 – Initiate Edward Aquifer Process

A permit is required to pump and use water in the Edwards Aquifer.

19-TX-b.9 – Contact Conservation District for Rules, Procedures, and Permits

Each conservation district in Texas has its own rules and procedures for groundwater usage. Some districts may require a formal permit to use and pump groundwater and/or to drill a groundwater well.

Groundwater conservation districts are approved by and managed by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The TWDB maintains Conservation Districts Maps.

Note: Transferring groundwater permits between old and new surface rights holders may require the notification of the groundwater conservation district and/or amending the appropriate permits and documents. The developer should contact the local groundwater conservation district for procedures on how to transfer groundwater permits.

Further, each district has specific rules and restrictions on exports of water.

19-TX-b.10 - Drill Well and Pump Groundwater

If the groundwater is in an unrestricted area the developer may drill a well and pump groundwater under the rule-of-capture.

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Contact Information

Edit Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Water Access and Water Rights Issues Contact 512.239.3678 Visit Website