INFORMATION ON GROUNDWATER CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
(AUSTIN) - This week, the Senate Select Committee on Water Policy will be holding a regional hearing in El Paso. This is one of many hearings the committee will be holding throughout the state, and will give my colleagues and I on the committee the ability to hear from citizens about their views concerning water and water policy. For information on the dates and locations of future hearings, please feel free to contact any of my offices.
Among the select committee's specific charges as they relate to the management and policy concerning ground and surface water is the role of groundwater conservation districts. This article focuses on groundwater conservation districts, and is taken from Water Resources Education website. To access more information, please feel free to visit their site at texaswater.tamu.edu/index.html.
Groundwater Conservation Districts
The Texas Legislature has provided a way for groundwater resources to be managed and protected locally, through the creation of groundwater conservation districts (GCDs). A GCD is a local unit of government authorized by the Texas Legislature and ratified at the local level to manage and protect groundwater.
Groundwater conservation districts were first created in Texas in 1949. In 1951, the High Plains Underground Water conservation District became the first local district. In 1985, 1997 and 2001, the Texas Legislature passed additional laws to encourage the establishment of more GCDs. This legislation is codified in Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code. The water code stresses the importance and responsibility of GCDs in developing and implementing comprehensive management plans to conserve and protect groundwater resources.
Creation of a Groundwater Conservation District
There are four procedures by which a GCD can be created in Texas. Most districts are created by action of the Texas Legislature. Registered voters within the proposed district must confirm the creation of the GCD, appoint its directors and set its tax rates in an election, except where noted below.
Action of the Legislature. New GCDs can be formed through special legislation, which is usually introduced by a local senator or representative. The bill usually addresses district financing, names temporary directors and establishes procedures for elections.
The temporary directors are responsible for holding the elections to form the district, electing the board members and authorizing the use of taxes to finance operations if applicable.
Petition by property owners. Local landowners may petition the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to form a groundwater conservation district. The petition must be signed be a majority of the landowners in the proposed district, or contain at least 50 signatures if the area has more than 50 landowners. The petition must name temporary directors who will be responsible for holding the confirmation election.
The TCEQ reviews the petition for statutory compliance and issues a "notice" of petition. Within 60 days of issuing the notice, the TCEQ holds a public meeting within the area of the proposed district. Within 90 days of the public meeting, the TCEQ must certify the petition as administratively complete if the signatures and petition content meet the statutory requirements.
The TCEQ may not certify a petition if it finds that the proposed GCD cannot be adequately funded, the proposed GCD boundaries do not provide for effective management of groundwater resources, or the proposed GCD is not in a designated groundwater management area.
Initiation by the TCEQ. If local landowners do not take action to create a groundwater conservation district in a priority groundwater management area, the TCEQ can create one. Then an election will be held to confirm directors and taxation. If the tax proposition is not approved, the district will be financed through production fees.
Addition of territory to an existing district. A landowner or group of landowners can petition an existing GCD's board of directors to be annexed into that district. Single landowner requests may be approved by the board; for larger groups or entire counties, the annexation must be approved by the directors, public hearings must be held and the addition must be confirmed by voters.
The next Capitol Update will continue the focus on water issues, and specifically, offer more information on GCD's. As always, please contact my office to discuss this, or any other issue.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0556 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: email@example.com.