Texas Water Code § 16.053. Regional Water Plans

(a) The regional water planning group in each regional water planning area shall prepare a regional water plan, using an existing state water plan identified in Section 16.051 of this code and local water plans prepared under Section 16.054 of this code as a guide, if present, that provides for the orderly development, management, and conservation of water resources and preparation for and response to drought conditions in order that sufficient water will be available at a reasonable cost to ensure public health, safety, and welfare;  further economic development;  and protect the agricultural and natural resources of that particular region.

(b) No later than September 1, 1998, the board shall designate the areas for which regional water plans shall be developed, taking into consideration such factors as river basin and aquifer delineations, water utility development patterns, socioeconomic characteristics, existing regional water planning areas, political subdivision boundaries, public comment, and other factors the board deems relevant.  The board shall review and update the designations as necessary but at least every five years.

(c) No later than 60 days after the designation of the regions under Subsection (b), the board shall designate representatives within each regional water planning area to serve as the initial coordinating body for planning.  The initial coordinating body may then designate additional representatives to serve on the regional water planning group.  The initial coordinating body shall designate additional representatives if necessary to ensure adequate representation from the interests comprising that region, including the public, counties, municipalities, industries, agricultural interests, environmental interests, small businesses, electric generating utilities, river authorities, water districts, and water utilities.  The regional water planning group shall maintain adequate representation from those interests.  In addition, the groundwater conservation districts located in each management area, as defined by Section 36.001 , located in the regional water planning area shall appoint one representative of a groundwater conservation district located in the management area and in the regional water planning area to serve on the regional water planning group.  In addition, representatives of the board, the Parks and Wildlife Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the State Soil and Water Conservation Board shall serve as ex officio members of each regional water planning group.

(d) The board shall provide guidelines for the consideration of existing regional planning efforts by regional water planning groups.  The board shall provide guidelines for the format in which information shall be presented in the regional water plans.

(e) Each regional water planning group shall submit to the development board a regional water plan that:

(1) is consistent with the guidance principles for the state water plan adopted by the development board under Section 16.051(d) ;

(2) provides information based on data provided or approved by the development board in a format consistent with the guidelines provided by the development board under Subsection (d);

(2-a) is consistent with the desired future conditions adopted under Section 36.108 for the relevant aquifers located in the regional water planning area as of the most recent deadline for the board to adopt the state water plan under Section 16.051 or, at the option of the regional water planning group, established subsequent to the adoption of the most recent plan;  provided, however, that if no groundwater conservation district exists within the area of the regional water planning group, the regional water planning group shall determine the supply of groundwater for regional planning purposes;  the Texas Water Development Board shall review and approve, prior to inclusion in the regional water plan, that the groundwater supply for the regional planning group without a groundwater conservation district in its area is physically compatible, using the board's groundwater availability models, with the desired future conditions adopted under Section 36.108 for the relevant aquifers in the groundwater management area that are regulated by groundwater conservation districts;

(3) identifies:

(A) each source of water supply in the regional water planning area, including information supplied by the executive administrator on the amount of modeled available groundwater in accordance with the guidelines provided by the development board under Subsections (d) and (f);

(B) factors specific to each source of water supply to be considered in determining whether to initiate a drought response;

(C) actions to be taken as part of the response;  

(D) existing major water infrastructure facilities that may be used for interconnections in the event of an emergency shortage of water;  and

(E) unnecessary or counterproductive variations in specific drought response strategies, including outdoor watering restrictions, among user groups in the regional water planning area that may confuse the public or otherwise impede drought response efforts;

(4) has specific provisions for water management strategies to be used during a drought of record;

(5) includes but is not limited to consideration of the following:

(A) any existing water or drought planning efforts addressing all or a portion of the region and potential impacts on public health, safety, or welfare in this state;

(B) approved groundwater conservation district management plans and other plans submitted under Section 16.054 ;

(C) all potentially feasible water management strategies, including but not limited to improved conservation, reuse, and management of existing water supplies, conjunctive use, acquisition of available existing water supplies, and development of new water supplies;

(D) protection of existing water rights in the region;

(E) opportunities for and the benefits of developing regional water supply facilities or providing regional management of water supply facilities;

(F) appropriate provision for environmental water needs and for the effect of upstream development on the bays, estuaries, and arms of the Gulf of Mexico and the effect of plans on navigation;

(G) provisions in Section 11.085(k)(1) if interbasin transfers are contemplated;

(H) voluntary transfer of water within the region using, but not limited to, regional water banks, sales, leases, options, subordination agreements, and financing agreements;

(I) emergency transfer of water under Section 11.139 , including information on the part of each permit, certified filing, or certificate of adjudication for nonmunicipal use in the region that may be transferred without causing unreasonable damage to the property of the nonmunicipal water rights holder;  and

(J) opportunities for and the benefits of developing large-scale desalination facilities for:

(i) marine seawater that serve local or regional entities;  and

(ii)  brackish groundwater that serve local or regional brackish groundwater production zones identified and designated under Section 16.060(b)(5) ;

(6) identifies river and stream segments of unique ecological value and sites of unique value for the construction of reservoirs that the regional water planning group recommends for protection under Section 16.051 ;

(7) assesses the impact of the plan on unique river and stream segments identified in Subdivision (6) if the regional water planning group or the legislature determines that a site of unique ecological value exists;

(8) describes the impact of proposed water projects on water quality;  

(9) includes information on:

(A) projected water use and conservation in the regional water planning area;  and

(B) the implementation of state and regional water plan projects, including water conservation strategies, necessary to meet the state's projected water demands;

(10) if the regional water planning area has significant identified water needs, provides a specific assessment of the potential for aquifer storage and recovery projects to meet those needs;

(11) sets one or more specific goals for gallons of water use per capita per day in each decade of the period covered by the plan for the municipal water user groups in the regional water planning area;  and

(12) assesses the progress of the regional water planning area in encouraging cooperation between water user groups for the purpose of achieving economies of scale and otherwise incentivizing strategies that benefit the entire region.

(e-1) On request of the Texas Water Advisory Council, a regional planning group shall provide the council a copy of that planning group's regional water plan.

(f) No later than September 1, 1998, the board shall adopt rules:

(1) to provide for the procedures for adoption of regional water plans by regional water planning groups and for approval of regional water plans by the board;  and

(2) to govern procedures to be followed in carrying out the responsibilities of this section.

(g) The board shall provide technical and financial assistance to the regional water planning groups in the development of their plans.  The board shall simplify, as much as possible, planning requirements in regions with abundant water resources.  The board, if requested, may facilitate resolution of conflicts within regions.

(h)(1) Prior to the preparation of the regional water plan, the regional water planning group shall, after notice, hold at least one public meeting at some central location readily accessible to the public within the regional water planning area to gather suggestions and recommendations from the public as to issues that should be addressed in the plan or provisions that should be considered for inclusion in the plan.

(2) The regional water planning group shall provide an ongoing opportunity for public input during the preparation of the regional water plan.

(3) After the regional water plan is initially prepared, the regional water planning group shall, after notice, hold at least one public hearing at some central location readily accessible to the public within the regional water planning area.  The group shall make copies of the plan available for public inspection at least one month before the hearing by providing a copy of the plan in the county courthouse and at least one public library of each county having land in the region.  Notice for the hearing shall include a listing of these and any other location where the plan is available for review.

(4) After the regional water plan is initially prepared, the regional water planning group shall submit a copy of the plan to the board.  The board shall submit comments on the regional water plan as to whether the plan meets the requirements of Subsection (e) of this section.

(5) If no interregional conflicts exist, the regional water planning group shall consider all public and board comments;  prepare, revise, and adopt the final plan;  and submit the adopted plan to the board for approval and inclusion in the state water plan.

(6) If an interregional conflict exists, the board shall facilitate coordination between the involved regions to resolve the conflict.  If conflict remains, the board shall resolve the conflict.  On resolution of the conflict, the involved regional water planning groups shall prepare revisions to their respective plans and hold, after notice, at least one public hearing at some central location readily accessible to the public within their respective regional water planning areas.  The regional water planning groups shall consider all public and board comments;  prepare, revise, and adopt their respective plans;  and submit their plans to the board for approval and inclusion in the state water plan.

(7) The board may approve a regional water plan only after it has determined that:

(A) all interregional conflicts involving that regional water planning area have been resolved;

(B) the plan includes water conservation practices and drought management measures incorporating, at a minimum, the provisions of Sections 11.1271 and 11.1272 ;  and

(C) the plan is consistent with long-term protection of the state's water resources, agricultural resources, and natural resources as embodied in the guidance principles adopted under Section 16.051(d) .

(8) Notice required by Subdivision (1), (3), or (6) of this subsection must be:

(A) published once in a newspaper of general circulation in each county located in whole or in part in the regional water planning area before the 30th day preceding the date of the public meeting or hearing;  and

(B) mailed to:

(i) each mayor of a municipality with a population of 1,000 or more that is located in whole or in part in the regional water planning area;

(ii) each county judge of a county located in whole or in part in the regional water planning area;

(iii) each special or general law district or river authority with responsibility to manage or supply water in the regional water planning area;

(iv) each retail public utility that:

(a) serves any part of the regional water planning area;  or

(b) receives water from the regional water planning area;  and

(v) each holder of record of a permit, certified filing, or certificate of adjudication for the use of surface water the diversion of which occurs in the regional water planning area.

(9) Notice published or mailed under Subdivision (8) of this subsection must contain:

(A) the date, time, and location of the public meeting or hearing;

(B) a summary of the proposed action to be taken;

(C) the name, telephone number, and address of the person to whom questions or requests for additional information may be submitted;  and

(D) information on how the public may submit comments.

(10) The regional water planning group may amend the regional water plan after the plan has been approved by the board.  If, after the regional water plan has been approved by the board, the plan includes a water management strategy or project that ceases to be feasible, the regional water planning group shall amend the plan to exclude that water management strategy or project and shall consider amending the plan to include a feasible water management strategy or project in order to meet the need that was to be addressed by the infeasible water management strategy or project.  For purposes of this subdivision, a water management strategy or project is considered infeasible if the proposed sponsor of the water management strategy or project has not taken an affirmative vote or other action to make expenditures necessary to construct or file applications for permits required in connection with the implementation of the water management strategy or project under federal or state law on a schedule that is consistent with the completion of the implementation of the water management strategy or project by the time the water management strategy or project is projected by the regional water plan or the state water plan to be needed.  Subdivisions (1)-(9) apply to an amendment to the plan in the same manner as those subdivisions apply to the plan.

(11) This subdivision applies only to an amendment to a regional water plan approved by the board.  This subdivision does not apply to the adoption of a subsequent regional water plan for submission to the board as required by Subsection (i).  Notwithstanding Subdivision (10), the regional water planning group may amend the plan in the manner provided by this subdivision if the executive administrator makes a written determination that the proposed amendment qualifies for adoption in the manner provided by this subdivision before the regional water planning group votes on adoption of the amendment.  A proposed amendment qualifies for adoption in the manner provided by this subdivision only if the amendment is a minor amendment, as defined by board rules, that will not result in the overallocation of any existing or planned source of water, does not relate to a new reservoir, and will not have a significant effect on instream flows or freshwater inflows to bays and estuaries.  If the executive administrator determines that a proposed amendment qualifies for adoption in the manner provided by this subdivision, the regional water planning group may adopt the amendment at a public meeting held in accordance with Chapter 551, Government Code.  The proposed amendment must be placed on the agenda for the meeting, and notice of the meeting must be given in the manner provided by Chapter 551, Government Code, at least two weeks before the date the meeting is held.  The public must be provided an opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment at the meeting.

(12) Each regional water planning group and any committee or subcommittee of a regional water planning group are subject to Chapters 551 and 552, Government Code.

(i) The regional water planning groups shall submit their adopted regional water plans to the board by January 5, 2001, for approval and inclusion in the state water plan.  In conjunction with the submission of regional water plans, each planning group should make legislative recommendations, if any, to facilitate more voluntary water transfers in the region or for any other changes that the members of the planning group believe would improve the water planning process.  Subsequent regional water plans shall be submitted at least every five years thereafter, except that a regional water planning group may elect to implement simplified planning, no more often than every other five-year planning cycle, and in accordance with guidance to be provided by the board, if the group determines that, based on its own initial analyses using updated groundwater and surface water availability information, there are no significant changes to the water availability, water supplies, or water demands in the regional water planning area.  At a minimum, simplified planning will require updating groundwater and surface water availability values in the regional water plan, meeting any other new statutory or other planning requirements that come into effect during each five-year planning cycle, and formally adopting and submitting the regional water plan for approval.  Public participation for revised regional plans shall follow the procedures under Subsection (h).

(j) The board may provide financial assistance to political subdivisions under Subchapters E and F  1 of this chapter, Subchapters C, D, E, F, J, O, Q, and R, Chapter 15  2, and Subchapters D, I, K, and L, Chapter 17  3, for water supply projects only if:

(1) the board determines that the needs to be addressed by the project will be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the state water plan;

(2) beginning January 5, 2002, the board:

(A) has approved a regional water plan as provided by Subsection (i), and any required updates of the plan, for the region of the state that includes the area benefiting from the proposed project;  and

(B) determines that the needs to be addressed by the project will be addressed in a manner that is consistent with that regional water plan;  and

(3) the board finds that the water audit required under Section 16.0121 has been completed and filed.

(k) The board may waive the requirements of Subsection (j) of this section if the board determines that conditions warrant the waiver.

(l) A political subdivision may contract with a regional water planning group to assist the regional water planning group in developing or revising a regional water plan.

(m) A cause of action does not accrue against a regional water planning group, a representative who serves on the regional water planning group, or an employee of a political subdivision that contracts with the regional water planning group under Subsection (l) for an act or omission in the course and scope of the person's work relating to the regional water planning group.

(n) A regional water planning group, a representative who serves on the regional water planning group, or an employee of a political subdivision that contracts with the regional water planning group under Subsection (l) is not liable for damages that may arise from an act or omission in the course and scope of the person's work relating to the regional water planning group.

(o) The attorney general, on request, shall represent a regional water planning group, a representative who serves on the regional water planning group, or an employee of a political subdivision that contracts with the regional water planning group under Subsection (l) in a suit arising from an act or omission relating to the regional water planning group.

(p) If a groundwater conservation district files a petition with the development board stating that a conflict requiring resolution may exist between the district's approved management plan developed under Section 36.1071 and an approved state water plan, the development board shall provide technical assistance to and facilitate coordination between the district and the involved region to resolve the conflict.  Not later than the 45th day after the date the groundwater conservation district files a petition with the development board, if the conflict has not been resolved, the district and the involved region shall mediate the conflict.  The district and the involved region may seek the assistance of the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at The University of Texas School of Law or an alternative dispute resolution system established under Chapter 152, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, in obtaining a qualified impartial third party to mediate the conflict.  The cost of the mediation services must be specified in the agreement between the parties and the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution or the alternative dispute resolution system.  If the district and the involved region cannot resolve the conflict through mediation, the development board shall resolve the conflict not later than the 60th day after the date the mediation is completed as provided by Subsections (p-1) and (p-2).

(p-1) If the development board determines that resolution of the conflict requires a revision of an approved regional water plan, the development board shall suspend the approval of that plan and provide information to the regional water planning group.  The regional water planning group shall prepare any revisions to its plan specified by the development board and shall hold, after notice, at least one public hearing at some central location readily accessible to the public within the regional water planning area.  The regional water planning group shall consider all public and development board comments, prepare, revise, and adopt its plan, and submit the revised plan to the development board for approval and inclusion in the state water plan.

(p-2) If the development board determines that resolution of the conflict requires a revision of the district's approved groundwater conservation district management plan, the development board shall provide information to the district.  The groundwater district shall prepare any revisions to its plan based on the information provided by the development board and shall hold, after notice, at least one public hearing at some central location readily accessible to the public within the district.  The groundwater district shall consider all public and development board comments, prepare, revise, and adopt its plan, and submit the revised plan to the development board.

(p-3) If the groundwater conservation district disagrees with the decision of the development board under Subsection (p), the district may appeal the decision to a district court in Travis County.  Costs for the appeal shall be set by the court hearing the appeal.  An appeal under this subsection is by trial de novo.

(p-4) On the request of the involved region or groundwater conservation district, the development board shall include discussion of the conflict and its resolution in the state water plan that the development board provides to the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house of representatives under Section 16.051(e) .

(q) Each regional planning group shall examine the financing needed to implement the water management strategies and projects identified in the group's most recent approved regional plan and, not later than June 1, 2002, shall report to the board regarding:

(1) how local governments, regional authorities, and other political subdivisions in the region propose to pay for water infrastructure projects identified in the plan;  and

(2) what role the regional planning group proposes for the state in financing projects identified in the plan, giving particular attention to proposed increases in the level of state participation in funding for regional projects to meet needs beyond the reasonable financing capability of local governments, regional authorities, and other political subdivisions involved in building water infrastructure.

<Text of subsec. (r) as added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1097, § 8>

(r) The board by rule shall provide for reasonable flexibility to allow for a timely amendment of a regional water plan, the board's approval of an amended regional water plan, and the amendment of the state water plan.  If an amendment under this subsection is to facilitate planning for water supplies reasonably required for a clean coal project, as defined by Section 5.001 , the rules may allow for amending a regional water plan without providing notice and without a public meeting or hearing under Subsection (h) if the amendment does not:

(1) significantly change the regional water plan, as reasonably determined by the board;  or

(2) adversely affect other water management strategies in the regional water plan.

<Text of subsec. (r) as added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1200, § 1>

(r) Information described by Subsection (e)(3)(D) that is included in a regional water plan submitted to the board is excepted from required disclosure under the public information law, Chapter 552, Government Code.

1 V.T.C.A., Water Code § 16.131 or § 16.181 et seq.
2 V.T.C.A., Water Code §§ 15.101, 15.201, 15.301, 15.401, 15.601, 15.901, 15.971, or 15.991 et seq.
3 V.T.C.A., Water Code §§ 17.121, 17.851, 17.921, or 17.951 et seq.

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