South Texans' Property Rights Association

Making a difference for a better South Texas

Legislative Updates

-Water Regulation and Conservation-

June, 2015

There were a wide variety of water bills this session, mostly dealing with groundwater. We were successful in maintaining the rights and ownership of groundwater and maintain local control in regards to how things are managed.  The list below details the variety of bills we were engaged in this session and the outcome of these bills.

HB 30 by Rep Lyle Larson & Senator Charles Perry – Sent to the Governor 

Requires Texas Water Development Board to identify and designate Brackish Groundwater Production Zones. These zones are areas that are conducive to desalination projects. The bill was amended to remove all the regulatory provisions from the bill.

HB 200 by Rep Jim Keffer & Senator Charles Perry – Passed 

Repeals the appeal of a Desired Future Condition to the Texas Water Development Board.
Allows an “affected person” including landowners to appeal the adoption of a Desired Future Condition by a groundwater conservation district. The appeal is whether or not the DFC sets a “reasonable” limit on groundwater production for the area. States that protecting private property rights is one of the purposes of groundwater conservation districts.

HB 898 by Rep Trent Ashby and SB 611 by Senator Charles Perry – FAILED 

Allows a private groundwater user to request that their withdrawal data be kept confidential.

HB 655 by Rep Lyle Larson & Senator Charles Perry Passed

Establishes the authority of TCEQ to permit aquifer storage and recovery (ARS) projects.

HB 1153 by Rep Scott Turner- FAILED 

Repealed the “junior water rights” provision on interbasin transfer permits.

HB 1232 by Rep Eddie Lucio III & Senator Craig Estes- Passed

Requires the TWDB to conduct a comprehensive study of the state’s aquifers.

HB 2892 by Rep Andrew Murr – FAILED 

Defines the process and procedures TCEQ must use before declaring a stream navigable.

HB 2647 by Rep Trent Ashby & Senator Craig Estes – Vetoed by the Governor 

Allows a power generator to delay the curtailment groundwater production from wells used for power generation or mining to protect the public health and safety or electric reliability.

HB 3163 by Rep John Cyrier & Senator Kirk Watson- Passed

Protects Groundwater Conservation District Board members from being sued personally for decisions made as a board member.

HB 3298 by Rep Lyle Larson & Senator Charles Perry-FAILED 

Requires TWDB to study how to construct and operate a statewide water “grid.”

HB 3324 by Rep Lyle Larson- FAILED 

Made several amendments to the permitting process of an interbasin transfer of surface water, including a repeal of the “junior water rights” provision to protect the basin of origin.

HB 3356 by Rep Eddie Lucio, III – FAILED 

Requires a groundwater conservation district to “consider” regulating the production of groundwater by retail public utilities based on the service needs or area served by the utility.

HB 4097 by Rep Todd Hunter & Senator Lois Kolkhorst- Sent to Governor

Streamlines the permitting of desalination projects for industrial use.

HB 4112 by Rep DeWayne Burns- Passed

Recognizes the “common law” property rights in groundwater.

SB 413 by Senator Kel Seliger – FAILED 

Requires one member of the Texas Water Development Board be a person who actively participates in agricultural production.

SB 521 by Senator Troy Fraser- FAILED

Extend the time frame for TCEQ to grant an emergency authorization to 270 days.

SB 523 by Senator Brian Birdwell & Rep Jim Keffer- Passed 

Places the state’s river authorities under a performance review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.

SB 854 by Senator Judith Zaffirini & Rep Eddie Lucio III- Passed

Allow groundwater permits to automatically renew as long as there has not been a change in aquifer conditions or production under the permit.

Proposition 6 Update (2013 - 2014)

In 2013, the Texas Legislature authorized transferring $2 billion from the state's "Rainy Day Fund" to create a new loan program, later approved by Texas voters, to fund projects in the state water plan. The funds available through SWIFT will help Texas communities of all sizes—from small rural towns to large metropolitan areas—develop drought-proof water supplies. Projects range from conservation and reuse, to desalting groundwater and seawater, to building new pipelines and developing reservoirs and well fields, to many more.

SWIFT Information - Texas Water Development Board

August 1, 2011

S.B. 332, “Groundwater Ownership” was a very important initiative this session. Groundwater is an integral part of the land that is owned by private landowners. STPRA signed on in support of the “Groundwater Ownership” group led by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB). S.B. 332 established that groundwater below the surface is the “real property” of the landowner and that the landowner has the right to produce water below the surface. The groundwater authorities still have the responsibility to regulate groundwater production to insure that landowners’ rights are protected.

Governor Perry signed the bill June 17, 2011. It went into effective September 1, 2011. STPRA believes that S.B. 332 is a major victory for landowners.

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