TCEQ Executive Director’s (ED) Recommendation
There are currently three successful watermaster programs in the state which were created by various methods. The Rio Grande program was established by court action. South Texas program was established in response to a declared water division. The Concho River program was established by both a petition of at least 25 water right holders who successfully proved at a hearing that their water rights were threatened and by legislative action. At this time, the ED recommends that the Commission not move forward on its own motion with the creation of a watermaster program in either basin area. Creation of a watermaster program by the Commission requires a hearing be held to determine if water rights were threatened. A follow-up consideration is the need for the creation of a new Watermaster program, associated new fees and a new regulatory structure for the impacted basins. In proving threat to water rights, the Commission on its own motion would bear the burden of proof of impact to water right holders. This burden of proof can best be articulated by those water right holders that were actually impacted. The Texas Water Code allows them to petition the Commission for such action.
While the statute requires the agency to evaluate the need for a watermaster in those basins without a watermaster program at least every five years, there is no prohibition against evaluating a basin sooner on an as needed basis. The ED can review this decision and evaluate additional threats to senior water rights as they occur and also consider area stakeholder input. It is important to have stakeholder support in articulating the threat and need to establish a new program as they will be responsible for paying a new fee to support the new regulatory program.
As stated above, the ED is always open to any additional information stakeholders may want to provide and 25 water right holders may petition the agency at any point to consider creation a watermaster program. Once a petition from 25 water right holders is received, the Commission will refer the issue to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for a complete administrative hearing and recommendation to the Commissioners for consideration.
This is an excerpt from page 12 of TCEQ InterOffice Memorandum.