Regional Water Planning Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I find out which regional water planning area (RWPA) I am located in and how can I get involved with the regional water planning group (RWPG)?
- Are RWPG meetings open to the public? What public notice requirements apply to RWPG meetings?
- Does the TWDB have guidance on regional water planning group membership?
- What are the categories of water use planned for in the regional water planning process?
- Is the environment considered a water user group? How is the environment considered in the regional water plans?
- What is the difference between Water Demand and Water Need in a regional water plan?
- What is the difference between Existing Water Supply and Availability?
- Why is the 1950’s statewide drought of record utilized for planning when there may have been more severe droughts at the regional level?
- Are climate models utilized in the development of regional water plans?
- Where can I find regional water planning data for a specific water user group?
- Where can I find summarized information for a regional water plan?
- I’ve looked at the interactive state water plan site but I still can’t find what I’m looking for. How can I access additional planning data?
- Where can I find a summary of data changes in a region from one plan to the next?
- Since population and water demand projections are initially developed by the state, is there a process for modifying these projections at the regional level?
- What is the difference between a Water Management Strategy and a Water Management Strategy Project?
- How are innovative water technologies addressed in the regional water plans?
- How are conservation strategies promoted or funded by the TWDB?
- Where can I find information regarding what TWDB funds have been used to support the implementation of regional water plan water management strategies and projects?
- Does a strategy or project have to be recommended in the regional or state water plan in order to receive funding from the TWDB?
- How are regional projects considered in the planning process?
- What is the regional project prioritization process? How is this process updated?
- How do water management strategy project prioritizations affect the regional water planning process?
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I find out which regional water planning area (RWPA) I am located in and how can I get involved with the regional water planning group (RWPG)?
One way to find out which RWPA you are geographically located in is to search for your county name in this document. You can also search counties in the online Interactive State Water Plan. Results will show which RWPA the county is in directly under the county name. Once you know which region you are located in, you can find out more about that region by clicking on the region-specific pages. To become involved with the RWPG, the TWDB recommends attending a RWPG meeting. A list of upcoming meeting dates and locations for each RWPG may be found on the schedule page.
2. Are RWPG meetings open to the public? What public notice requirements apply to RWPG meetings?
All meetings of RWPGs and their committees or subcommittees are open to the public and subject to the Open Meetings Act. The minimum public notice for planning group meetings is 72 hours in accordance with the Open Meetings Act. TWDB’s regional water planning rules require additional notice and public comment periods for some RWPG activities. A matrix summary of RWPG public notice and RWPG meeting requirements may be found here.
3. Does the TWDB have guidance on regional water planning group membership?
In accordance with TWDB rules (31 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §357.11(d)), each RWPG must maintain at least one voting member from each of the following interest categories: the public, counties, municipalities, industry, agriculture, environment, small business, electric-generating utilities, river authorities, water districts, water utilities, and groundwater management areas. Each RWPG, at its discretion, may add additional voting or non-voting members for any new interest category, or add additional members to the required interest categories. RWPGs may also remove representatives, as long as the minimum requirements for the categories listed above are maintained. It is the discretion of the planning group to decide who is best to represent the interest category; however, the planning group must follow their bylaws regarding member solicitations and recommendations.
4. What are the categories of water use planned for in the regional water planning process?
There are six water use categories which are planned for in accordance with TWDB rules (31 TAC §357.31). These categories are municipal, manufacturing, irrigation, steam electric power generation, mining, and livestock. For planning purposes, rural water use, including domestic use, is aggregated and categorized under a sub-set of municipal water user groups referred to as “county-other”.
5. Is the environment considered a water user group? How is the environment considered in the regional water plans?
The environment is not one of the six water use categories specified in 31 TAC §357.31 for which the TWDB develops water demand projections, and for which water needs are identified and water management strategies recommended.
Although environmental uses are not considered a water user group, environmental factors and other factors deemed relevant by the RWPGs (e.g., recreation) must be considered when evaluating water management strategies during development of their plan. For example, TWDB rules (31 TAC §358.3(22)) require that environmental flow standards adopted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) must be accommodated by recommended water management strategies in the regional water plans, where applicable, or in basins where standards are not available or have not been adopted, information from existing site-specific studies or state consensus environmental planning criteria are used. Implementation of all recommended projects must also comply with any permitting requirements related to the environment.
Additionally, TWDB rules (31 TAC §357.35(b) and (c)) require that RWPGs recommend water management strategies that are environmentally sensitive and consistent with the long-term protection of the state’s water resources, agricultural resources, and natural resources.
Guidance principles outlined in TWDB rules (31 TAC §358.3(23)), require RWPGs to give consideration of environmental water needs including instream flows and bay and estuary inflows, including adjustments to water management strategies to provide for environmental water needs including instream flows and bay and estuary needs. Such consideration must be consistent with environmental flow standards where adopted.
6. What is the difference between Water Demand and Water Need in a regional water plan?
Water Demand is the volume of water that a water user group would require during drought of record conditions for its anticipated domestic, public, and/or economic activities. Water Need is a potential water supply shortage based on the difference between projected water demands and existing water supplies. In the planning process, a planning group will compare a water user group’s demands to the water user group's existing water supplies to determine if they may face a potential shortage (need) under drought conditions.
7. What is the difference between Existing Water Supply and Availability?
Availability is the total amount of raw water that could be produced from a water source during drought of record conditions. Existing water supply is a subset of the water availability representing the amount of that water that is physically and legally available for use by a water user group. For example, availability is the total amount of water estimated within an aquifer, but the existing water supply is the amount of water that a water user's permit and pump capacity already allows them to pump in the event of a drought.
8. Why is the 1950’s statewide drought of record utilized for planning when there may have been more severe droughts at the regional level?
While the drought of the 1950s is still considered the statewide benchmark drought for state water planning, the TWDB acknowledges that regional droughts of record may vary by river basin. The drought of record for surface water sources is determined using water availability models developed by the TCEQ and is based on historical flow data. Because RWPGs are required by planning rules (31 TAC §357.32(c)) to use the most recent TCEQ water availability models, any new regional or sub-basin droughts of record identified by model updates will be accounted for when evaluating existing supplies or water management strategies. Planning groups may also address uncertainty and risks, for example, to address a drought worse than the drought of record, when developing their plans.
9. Are climate models utilized in the development of regional water plans?
Climate models are not used in the regional water planning process. Texas’ water plans are based on benchmark drought of record conditions using historical hydrological data. While we recognize that the full sequence of hydrologic events in our history will never be repeated exactly, the droughts that have occurred have been of such severity that it is reasonable to use them for the purpose of planning. There are currently no forecasting tools capable of providing reliable estimates of changes to future water resources in Texas at the resolution needed for water planning. In order to provide the best available, actionable science, grounded in historical data and patterns, the TWDB continues to collect data and consider potential ways to improve estimates of water supply reliability in the face of drought. Planning groups may also address uncertainty and risks, for example, to address a drought worse than the drought of record, when developing their plans.
10. Where can I find regional water planning data for a specific water user group?
Detailed data can be accessed for discrete water user groups by using the online Interactive State Water Plan. Data are presented at varying geographic levels, through maps, tables, and additional graphics. Users can customize what they see, for example, by selecting data associated with a specific water use category or from a specific planning decade. The displayed data is also downloadable in a spreadsheet format. Please visit the About page of the interactive state water plan for guidance on how to find information on the site.
11. Where can I find summarized information for a regional water plan?
Each regional water plan is required to include an Executive Summary of the plan content. These summaries may be found in the pdf of the most recently adopted regional water plans. Additionally, the TWDB develops short summaries of each regional water plan, which may be accessed using the drop-down box which may be accessed towards the bottom of this page. Data for specific RWPGs may also be viewed at the regional level through the online Interactive State Water Plan.
12. I’ve looked at the interactive state water plan site but I still can’t find what I’m looking for. How can I access additional planning data?
The TWDB’s Water Supply and Strategy Analysis staff is available to assist with custom data requests. For TWDB planning data requests, please fill out the Data Request Form and email the request to WRPdatarequests@twdb.texas.gov.
13. Where can I find a summary of data changes in a region from one plan to the next?
Beginning with the 2016 regional water plans, each plan contains a specific chapter that describes changes since the last plan. This information can be found in Chapter 11 of each of the 2016 regional water plans.
14. Since population and water demand projections are initially developed by the state, is there a process for modifying these projections at the regional level?
At the beginning of each planning cycle, RWPGs receive draft water demand projections developed by the TWDB and are given revision criteria by which requests to modify projections may be made. Local input during the review process is important for improving the accuracy of the projections, which are the backbone of data in the planning process. Modifications however, must include an acceptable justification and documentation based on guidance issued by the TWDB. Once projections are adopted by the Board, RWPGs may utilize a formalized revision request process with an associated public notice and comment period as outlined in 31 TAC 357.21(c).
15. What is the difference between a Water Management Strategy and a Water Management Strategy Project?
A water management strategy, or WMS, is a plan to meet a water need of a water user group, which may or may not require infrastructure projects to be implemented. A water management strategy project, or WMSP, is an infrastructure project that may be required to implement a water management strategy. Water management strategy projects have capital costs and are designed to develop, deliver, or treat additional water supply volumes, or conserve water for water user groups or wholesale water suppliers. One water management strategy project may be associated with multiple water management strategies. For example, the construction of a single reservoir project (WMSP) may support multiple water user group strategies (WMSs) that use that new supply. In the planning process, RWPGs groups identify and recommend water management strategies and water management strategy projects to address identified water supply needs.
16. How are innovative water technologies addressed in the regional water plans?
The Texas Water Code (TWC) §16.053(e)(5) and TWDB rules (31 TAC §357.34(c)) require that certain types of potentially feasible water management strategies be considered during plan development. Innovative technologies required to be considered include reuse, seawater and brackish groundwater desalination, aquifer storage and recovery, and rainwater harvesting. The TWDB’s guidance also requires that if aquifer storage and recovery, seawater desalination, and brackish groundwater desalination strategies are not recommended, the regional water plans must also document the reasons why not.
17. How are conservation strategies promoted or funded by the TWDB?
The TWDB supports conservation efforts and will continue to make an effort to disseminate relevant conservation information to planning groups for their consideration. TWDB rules (31 TAC §357.34(g)) require that RWPGs consider water conservation practices, including best management practices, for each identified water need. If water conservation strategies are not recommended to meet an identified need, the planning group shall document the reason in the regional water plan. RWPGs are required to meet the planning requirements in statute, rule, and by contract and, in doing so, the decision whether to recommend conservation strategies is the responsibility of the planning group.
Conservation projects may be funded through a variety of the TWDB’s funding programs. More information on funding opportunities may be found on the Financial Assistance Programs page.
18. Where can I find information regarding what TWDB funds have been used to support the implementation of regional water plan water management strategies and projects?
The 2017 State Water Plan includes a chapter dedicated to discussing implementation of recommended projects in the previous state water plan (Chapter 9). Table 9.1 provides a list of projects that have been funded from the 2011 regional water plans/2012 State Water Plan, the type of financial program utilized, the closed loan amount, and the associated volume of annual water supply.
19. Does a strategy or project have to be recommended in the regional or state water plan in order to receive funding from the TWDB?
A water management strategy project must be recommended in the most recent state water plan in order to be eligible for funding in the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. For all other TWDB funding programs, it is not a requirement for the strategy or project to be recommended in the plan, however the strategy or project must address needs in a manner that is consistent with the state water plan. Generally, this means that the water supply source planned for the entity in the regional plan is in alignment with the project sponsor’s source of supply listed in the application, and that the project does not meet needs that were not met in the adopted regional and state water plans.
20. How are regional projects considered in the planning process?
The development of regional water supply or regional management of water supply facilities is a potentially feasible water management strategy that must be considered in accordance with TWC §16.053(e)(5). The decision whether to recommend a particular water management strategy or water management strategy project is the responsibility of the RWPGs.
21. What is the regional project prioritization process? How is this process updated?
RWPGs are required to prioritize their recommended water management strategy projects using uniform standards. The project prioritization process at the regional level is based on uniform standards that have been approved by the Board. These uniform standards, required by statute (TWC §15.436), were developed by the chairs of the 16 RWPGs through a stakeholder committee process facilitated by the TWDB. The TWDB recommends that the stakeholder committee reconvene at least once each planning cycle to review and make any necessary changes to the standards. If the stakeholder committee reconvenes and determines changes are necessary, the updated standards will require Board approval. These regional prioritizations are used by the TWDB in its ranking of projects applying for SWIFT funds.
22. How do water management strategy project prioritizations affect the regional water planning process?
While the regional list of project prioritizations is a requirement and deliverable component of the regional water planning process, the prioritization process is not intended to influence planning decisions. Water management strategy projects should be evaluated and recommended following regional water planning rules and guidance. Recommended projects are prioritized and submitted under separate cover with the adopted regional water plan.