Texas Water Code - WATER § 11.0235. Policy Regarding Waters of the State

(a) The waters of the state are held in trust for the public, and the right to use state water may be appropriated only as expressly authorized by law.

(b) Maintaining the biological soundness of the state's rivers, lakes, bays, and estuaries is of great importance to the public's economic health and general well-being.  The legislature encourages voluntary water and land stewardship to benefit the water in the state, as defined by Section 26.001.

(c) The legislature has expressly required the commission while balancing all other public interests to consider and, to the extent practicable, provide for the freshwater inflows and instream flows necessary to maintain the viability of the state's streams, rivers, and bay and estuary systems in the commission's regular granting of permits for the use of state waters.  As an essential part of the state's environmental flows policy, all permit conditions relating to freshwater inflows to affected bays and estuaries and instream flow needs must be subject to temporary suspension if necessary for water to be applied to essential beneficial uses during emergencies.

(d) The legislature has not expressly authorized granting water rights exclusively for:

(1) instream flows dedicated to environmental needs or inflows to the state's bay and estuary systems;  or

(2) other similar beneficial uses.

<Text of subsec. (d-1) as added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., ch. 1351, § 1.06>

(d-1) The legislature has determined that existing water rights that are converted to water rights for environmental purposes should be enforced in a manner consistent with the enforcement of water rights for other purposes as provided by the laws of this state governing the appropriation of state water.

<Text of subsec. (d-1) as added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., ch. 1430, § 1.06>

(d-1) The legislature has determined that existing water rights that are amended to authorize use for environmental purposes should be enforced in a manner consistent with the enforcement of water rights for other purposes as provided by the laws of this state governing the appropriation of state water.

(d-2) The legislature finds that to provide certainty in water management and development and to provide adequate protection of the state's streams, rivers, and bays and estuaries, the state must have a process with specific timelines for prompt action to address environmental flow issues in the state's major basin and bay systems, especially those systems in which unappropriated water is still available.

(d-3) The legislature finds that:

(1) in those basins in which water is available for appropriation, the commission should establish an environmental set-aside below which water should not be available for appropriation;  and

(2) in those basins in which the unappropriated water that will be set aside for instream flow and freshwater inflow protection is not sufficient to fully satisfy the environmental flow standards established by the commission, a variety of market approaches, both public and private, for filling the gap must be explored and pursued.

(d-4) The legislature finds that while the state has pioneered tools to address freshwater inflow needs for bays and estuaries, there are limitations to those tools in light of both scientific and public policy evolution.  To fully address bay and estuary environmental flow issues, the foundation of work accomplished by the state should be improved.  While the state's instream flow studies program appears to encompass a comprehensive and scientific approach for establishing a process to assess instream flow needs for rivers and streams across the state, more extensive review and examination of the details of the program, which may not be fully developed until the program is under way, are needed to ensure an effective tool for evaluating riverine environmental flow conditions.

(d-5) The legislature finds that the management of water to meet instream flow and freshwater inflow needs should be evaluated on a regular basis and adapted to reflect both improvements in science related to environmental flows and future changes in projected human needs for water.  In addition, the development of management strategies for addressing environmental flow needs should be an ongoing, adaptive process that considers and addresses local issues.

(d-6) The legislature finds that recommendations for state action to protect instream flows and freshwater inflows should be developed through a consensus-based, regional approach involving balanced representation of stakeholders and that such a process should be encouraged throughout the state.

(e) The fact that greater pressures and demands are being placed on the water resources of the state makes it of paramount importance to ensure that these important priorities are effectively addressed by detailing how environmental flow standards are to be developed using the environmental studies that have been and are to be performed by the state and others and specifying in clear delegations of authority how those environmental flow standards will be integrated into the regional water planning and water permitting process.

(f) The legislature recognizes that effective implementation of the approach provided by this chapter for protecting instream flows and freshwater inflows will require more effective water rights administration and enforcement systems than are currently available in most areas of the state.

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