FAQs - Groundwater Management Areas | Texas Water Development Board

Groundwater Management Area (GMA) FAQs

  1. What happens to the areas in a groundwater management area which are not covered by groundwater conservation districts? Do these areas have representation in the groundwater management area?
  2. Who is an affected person?
  3. What will the TWDB do if a groundwater management area is sued?
  4. Who are the official representatives for a groundwater management area?
  5. If a minor aquifer is present in one District and in no other, can the other Districts in the groundwater management area dictate how that aquifer should be managed?
  6. What posting requirements apply to a groundwater management area to hold meetings? Do groundwater management area meetings have to be posted? What are the posting rules?
  7. Does the joint planning process by groundwater conservation districts have to conform to the open records act?
  8. What is the role of the TWDB when a petition is filed concerning the reasonableness of a desired future condition?
  9. What happens when groundwater management areas having aquifers straddling management area boundaries disagree on future desired conditions? How do they resolve their differences or do they have to resolve the differences?
  10. What is the role of TWDB in the joint planning process?
  11. What TWDB resources and assistance are available to the groundwater management area?
  12. Is the TWDB going to make administrative rules specifically for the joint planning process?
  13. What is the legal consequence of a groundwater conservation district not participating in groundwater management area joint planning?
  14. What is a "geographic area"?
  15. Can one person represent two districts on a groundwater management area group, such as a common general manager's appointment by two boards? In addition, would this give the representative two votes?
  16. Whom should I contact for more information about the joint planning process?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens to the areas in a groundwater management area which are not covered by groundwater conservation districts? Do these areas have representation in the groundwater management area?

Statute does not provide representation to areas in a groundwater management area that lie outside of groundwater conservation districts. Therefore, any area outside of a district does not have direct representation in groundwater management area matters. Districts in some groundwater management areas are including non-voting representation from areas without districts. Please note that desired future condition statements are be used to calculate modeled available groundwater for the entire area covered by the desired future condition statement, including areas without groundwater conservation districts. Modeled available groundwater values for the groundwater management area (including non-district areas) will be used by regional water planning groups in their plans.

2. Who is an affected person?

Texas Administrative Code §356.10 defines affected person as an owner of land in the management area, a district in or adjacent to the management area, a regional water planning group with a water management strategy in the management area, a person or entity who holds or is applying for a permit from a district in the management area, a person or entity who has groundwater rights in the management area, or any other person defined as affected with respect to a management area by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rule.

3. What will the TWDB do if a groundwater management area is sued?

The TWDB does not believe a groundwater management area is a legal entity or "person" that can be sued. It is simply an area delineated by the Board pursuant to statutory requirements. Therefore, the Board does not believe it is possible to sue a groundwater management area, since there is no governing body or legal representative to sue.

4. Who are the official representatives for a groundwater management area?

The joint planning required of the groundwater conservation districts in a groundwater management area is to be conducted by district representatives (Texas Water Code §36.108(c)). The district representative as defined in §36.108(a)) means the presiding officer or the presiding officer’s designee for any district located wholly or partly in the management area.

5. If a minor aquifer is present in one District and in no other, can the other Districts in the groundwater management area dictate how that aquifer should be managed?

Texas Water Code §36.108(d) states that all districts in a groundwater management area must meet and establish desired future conditions for the relevant aquifers within the management area. It goes on to state that the districts may establish different desired future conditions for each aquifer or geographic area. The majority of the districts in the management area must agree as to how the aquifer is managed, as statue requires the desired future conditions to be approved by a two-thirds vote of all the districts within the management area. On the other hand, districts in a groundwater management area may declare the aquifer not relevant for joint planning, if it is deemed to not affect any other district as outlined in Texas Administrative Code §356.3.

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6. What posting requirements apply to a groundwater management area to hold meetings? Do groundwater management area meetings have to be posted? What are the posting rules?

Statute requires that joint planning meetings be held in accordance with Chapter 551, Government Code (Open Meetings). Notice of the joint planning meeting must be provided at least 10 days before the meeting by: providing notice to the secretary of state; providing notice to the county clerk of each county located wholly or partly in a district within the management area; and posting notice at the district office of each district within the management area (Texas Water Code §36.108(e)).

7. How much notice is required for posting a meeting?

Yes, statute requires that each district comply with Chapter 552, Government Code (Open Records).

8. What is the role of the TWDB when a petition is filed concerning the reasonableness of a desired future condition?

For desired future conditions adopted after September 1, 2015, state law changed so that an affected person may file a petition with a groundwater conservation district.

A district must submit a copy of the petition to the TWDB within 10 days of receiving a petition. The TWDB will conduct an administrative review to determine whether the desired future condition meets the criteria in Texas Water Code Section 36.108(d) and will conduct a study containing scientific and technical analysis of the desired future condition. Texas Water Code Section 36.1083(e) lists the items that the TWDB must consider in the analysis. The TWDB must complete and deliver this study to the State Office of Administrative Hearings within 120 days of receiving a copy of the petition. The State Office of Administrative Hearings will consider the TWDB study and may request TWDB staff to serve as expert witnesses during the petition hearing. Texas Water Code Section 36.1083 describes the hearing process for the appeal of a desired future condition via the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

9. What happens when groundwater management areas having aquifers straddling management area boundaries disagree on future desired conditions? How do they resolve their differences or do they have to resolve the differences?

There is no requirement for groundwater conservation districts to cooperate or coordinate their desired future conditions across groundwater management areas. However, a groundwater conservation district adjacent to a groundwater management area may file a petition with TWDB that appeals the approval of a desired future condition adopted by the groundwater conservation districts in that groundwater management area. TWDB staff encourages groundwater conservation districts in groundwater management areas to consider the interests of districts in neighboring groundwater management areas while developing desired future conditions.

10. What is the role of TWDB in the joint planning process?

The TWDB plays a support role in the joint planning process. The groundwater conservation districts in a groundwater management area are required to meet every year for joint planning and are required to adopt desired future conditions every five years. The TWDB provides districts with modeled available groundwater numbers based on the desired future conditions adopted by the districts in the groundwater management area (Texas Water Code Section 36.1084(b)). If a groundwater conservation district receives a petition on the reasonableness of a desired future condition, the TWDB is responsible for providing an administrative review and a study of the desired future condition (Texas Water Code Section 36.1083(e)). The TWDB may be requested to facilitate mediation between affected parties and the district (Texas Water Code Section 36.1083(j)).

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11. What TWDB resources and assistance are available to the groundwater management area?

The TWDB is available to assist districts in determining their desired future conditions. This assistance is available by having TWDB staff attend joint planning meetings and in reviewing, as needed, groundwater availability model runs and other assessments as provided by the districts to evaluate draft desired future conditions statements.

12. Is the TWDB going to make administrative rules specifically for the joint planning process?

Districts are responsible for conducting the joint planning process as outlined in Texas Water Code §36.108. TWDB has administrative rules relating to the submission of desired future conditions (Texas Administrative Code §356.30-§356.35) and the role of the TWDB when a petition is filed with a groundwater conservation district concerning the reasonableness of a desired future condition (Texas Administrative Code §356.40-§356.42).

13. What is the legal consequence of a groundwater conservation district not participating in groundwater management area joint planning?

While nothing is explicitly stated in statute about this, it appears there are a couple of consequences. First, the district would still be required to abide by the desired future conditions that they were not a part of selecting. In addition, Texas Water Code §36.1082 allows an “affected person" to file a petition with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to request an inquiry. The inquiry may be for the following reasons related to joint planning: the district failed to participate in the joint planning process under Section 36.108, the district failed to adopt the applicable desired future conditions adopted by the management area, the district failed to update its management plan before the second anniversary of the adoption of desired future conditions by the management area, the district failed to update its rules to implement the applicable desired future conditions before the first anniversary of the date it updated its management plan with adopted desired future conditions, the rules adopted by a district are not designed to achieve the desired future conditions adopted by the management area, the groundwater is not adequately protected by the rules adopted by a district, or the district failed to adequately enforce its rules.

14. What is a "geographic area"?

Statute does not directly define the term “geographic area." Texas Water Code §36.108(d)(1) states that the districts shall consider "aquifer uses or conditions within the management area, including conditions that differ substantially from one geographic area to another.” Texas Water Code §36.108(d-1)(2) states that different desired future conditions may be established for "each geographic area overlying an aquifer in whole or in part or subdivision of an aquifer within the boundaries of the management area."

15. Can one person represent two districts on a groundwater management area group, such as a common general manager's appointment by two boards? In addition, would this give the representative two votes?

Statute is silent on this issue. Therefore, it is up to the districts if they want to do this.

16. Whom should I contact for more information about the joint planning process?

The Groundwater Technical Assistance team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about joint planning. Contact us at 512-936-0817.

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