Groundwater Conservation District (GCD) FAQs

  1. What is a GCD or UWCD?
  2. How many GCDs are there in Texas?
  3. Who creates GCDs?
  4. What is a regional groundwater or aquifer alliance?
  5. What is a groundwater management plan?
  6. Are all GCDs required to develop a groundwater management plan?
  7. How often are GCDs required to renew their management plan?
  8. If a district amends its management plan before the statutory 5-year limit, is it required to submit the plan to the TWDB for approval?
  9. Who approves a GCD's management plan?
  10. What are the required elements of a groundwater management plan?
  11. How long does it take TWDB to approve a management plan?
  12. What action can a district take if the TWDB denies approving its management plan?
  13. Can a district get help from the TWDB in the development of its management plan?
  14. Where can I find more information on the items required in a groundwater management plan for administrative completeness?
  15. For income generated from production and transport fees, for what purposes can that income be used? Is there a rule in Chapter 36 that addresses how transport and production fees can be used? Are the permit fees different from the production and transport fees?
  16. Does the TWDB have information about the budgets and expenditures for the groundwater conservation districts?
  17. Whom should I contact for more information about groundwater management plans?
  18. Why are the water budget components provided by TWDB for inclusion into the groundwater conservation district management plan based on historical aquifer conditions and not the modeled available groundwater?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a GCD or UWCD?

A GCD (groundwater conservation district) or an UWCD (underground water conservation district) is a district created under Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 52 or Article XVI, Section 59, that has the authority to regulate the spacing of water wells, the production from water wells, or both. Hereinafter, these districts will be referred to as GCDs or districts.

2. How many GCDs are there in Texas?

Currently, there are 99 GCDs in Texas: 98 confirmed and one that is yet to be confirmed by voters through local elections. The districts are shown on the GCD map.

3. Who creates GCDs?

Groundwater conservation districts are either created by the Texas Legislature under and subject to the authority, conditions and restrictions of Article XVI, Section 59 of the Texas Constitution, or by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through a local petition process (Texas Water Code §36.011).

4. What is a regional groundwater or aquifer alliance?

In some areas of the state, groundwater conservation districts overlying common aquifers have teamed together to not only share staff and other resources but also, more importantly, to undertake aquifer management on a regional basis. Currently, there are six such regional alliances: West Texas Regional Groundwater Alliance; Far West Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts; Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer Alliance; South Texas Regional Groundwater Alliance; Hill Country Groundwater Conservation District Alliance; and Southern Ogallala Regional Ground Water Alliance.

5. What is a groundwater management plan?

A groundwater management plan describes a district's groundwater management goals. These goals include providing the most efficient use of groundwater, controlling and preventing waste of groundwater, controlling and preventing subsidence, addressing conjunctive surface water management issues, addressing natural resource issues, addressing drought conditions, and addressing conservation, groundwater recharge, and desired future aquifer conditions (Texas Administrative Code §356.52).

6. Are all GCDs required to develop a groundwater management plan?

Yes. All GCDs are required to develop a groundwater management plan and submit it to the TWDB for approval. A newly created district is required to submit its management plan no later than three years after its creation. If a district requires a confirmation election after its creation, a management plan should be submitted no later than three years after the confirmation election (Texas Water Code §36.1072(a-1)).

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7. How often are GCDs required to renew their management plan?

A district is required to review and readopt its management plan with or without revisions, and submit it to the TWDB for approval, at least once every five years. It can, however, review its plan more frequently if necessary (Texas Water Code §36.1072(e)).

8. If a district amends its management plan before the statutory five-year limit, is it required to submit the plan to the TWDB for approval?

If the district proposes to amend its plan for revisions of items other than the modeled available groundwater or desired future conditions, the district shall submit a written copy of the proposed amendment to TWDB's Executive Administrator so that the Executive Administrator may determine whether the amendment requires approval. If the amendment requires approval, the amendments to the management plan should be submitted to the TWDB within 60 days of being adopted by the district (Texas Administrative Code §356.56).

9. Who approves a GCD's management plan?

The TWDB's Executive Administrator is charged with reviewing and approving a GCD's groundwater management plan as being administratively complete (Texas Water Code §36.1072).

10. What are the required elements of a groundwater management plan?

A groundwater management plan is required to address the management goals listed below and provide the following information.

Goals:

  • providing the most efficient use of groundwater;
  • controlling and preventing waste of groundwater;
  • controlling and preventing subsidence;
  • addressing conjunctive surface water management issues;
  • addressing natural resource issues which impact the use and availability of groundwater, and which are impacted by the use of groundwater;
  • addressing drought conditions;
  • addressing conservation, recharge enhancement, rainwater harvesting, precipitation enhancement, and brush control, where appropriate and cost-effective; and
  • addressing the desired future conditions established pursuant to Texas Water Code §36.108.

Information:

  • performance standards and management objectives under which the district will operate to achieve its management goals;
  • details of how the district will manage groundwater supplies in the district, including a methodology by which the district will track its progress in achieving its management goals;
  • detailed descriptions of actions, procedures, performance and avoidance that are or may be necessary to effect the plan including specifications and proposed rules;
  • estimates of the following:
    • modeled available groundwater in the district based on the desired future condition established under Texas Water Code §36.108;
    • the amount of groundwater being used within the district on an annual basis;
    • the annual amount of recharge from precipitation, if any, to the groundwater resources within the district;
    • the annual volume of water that discharges from each aquifer in the district to springs and surface water bodies;
    • the annual volumes of flow into and out of the district within each aquifer and between aquifers in the district if a groundwater availability model is present;
    • the projected surface water supply in the district according to the most recent state water plan;
    • the projected total demand for water within the district according to the most recent state water plan; and
  • consideration of the water supply needs and water management strategies within the district according to the most recent state water plan.

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11. How long does it take TWDB to approve a management plan?

The TWDB is required to make its determination on a management plan within 60 days of receiving all elements of a plan (Texas Water Code §36.1072(b)).The TWDB will notify the district in writing of its determination (Texas Administrative Code §356.54).

12. What action can a district take if the TWDB denies approving its management plan?

A district has two choices if its management plan is denied approval by the TWDB. It can revise and resubmit its plan within 180 days of receiving notification from the TWDB, or it can, within 60 days, appeal the executive administrator's decision to the TWDB Board members. More information on the procedures that a district needs to follow for appealing a management plan denial can be in Texas Administrative Code §356.55.

13. Can a district get help from the TWDB in the development of its management plan?

Yes. The TWDB can provide technical assistance to a district in the development of its management plan. This consists of at least one preliminary review, if requested, and comment on the plan prior to its adoption by the district. If a district requests a preliminary review of its draft plan, the TWDB can usually provide its comments within 30 days of the date of the request. The TWDB will review management plans in the order in which the requests for preliminary review are received. A preliminary review is not required but we highly recommend it to make the approval process more efficient.

14.Where can I find more information on the items required in a groundwater management plan for administrative completeness?

A checklist of items required for a management plan to be approved as administratively complete can be found here.

15. For income generated from production and transport fees, for what purposes can that income be used? Is there a rule in Chapter 36 that addresses how transport and production fees can be used? Are the permit fees different from the production and transport fees?

Section 36.205(c) of the Texas Water Code states that a district can use the revenues generated by production fees for "any lawful purpose." Section 36.205(g) says transport fees may be assessed pursuant to §36.122. Under Section 36.122, it says, in subsection (l), that a district is prohibited from using revenues obtained (from the transport fee) to prohibit the transfer of groundwater outside of a district but is not prohibited from using revenues for paying expenses related to enforcement of Chapter 36 or the district's rules.

16. Does the TWDB have information about the budgets and expenditures for the groundwater conservation districts?

Our agency does not track individual groundwater conservation district budgets and expenditures except if a GCD applies for a loan or grant with us. Currently, only a few Districts have loans or grants. You would have to contact the Districts to obtain budget information.

17. Whom should I contact for more information about groundwater management plans?

The Groundwater Technical Assistance team will be happy to assist you with any questions you may have about groundwater management plans. Contact us at 512-936-0817.

18. Why are the water budget components provided by TWDB for inclusion into the groundwater conservation district management plan based on historical aquifer conditions and not the modeled available groundwater?

The water budget data provided by the TWDB from the groundwater availability modeling program to the groundwater conservation districts for their groundwater conservation district management plans, if a groundwater availability model is available, are itemized in Texas Water Code §36.1071(e)(3) (C though E). In interpreting the language in this section of the water code there is a clear distinction between annual estimates (historical) and projected (Texas Water Code §36.1071(e)(3) (F and G)). The required water budget data (listed in C through E) are based on historical annual estimates. The estimates are averaged over a period when the model was calibrated to measured aquifer conditions to not show bias to anomalies in climate or pumping patterns and to reflect actual aquifer conditions. Projecting the model(s) from the period during which they were calibrated to more recent times adds an additional element of uncertainty to the estimates. Therefore the policy is to extract data from the groundwater availability models during the historical calibration/verification period and to average the results over an extended period of time to eliminate as much bias as possible.

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