North Texas TCEQ Groundwater Controls

By Cheryl L. Coon | September 28, 2010

In July 2008, the TCEQ published its Groundwater Preservation District Recommendation Report, which includes Dallas and Tarrant Counties as counties that should establish a priority groundwater management system. The criterion for recommending a groundwater control district is that the area is expected to experience “critical groundwater problems” in the next 25 years. Tarrant County [Fort Worth] is now part of the Northern Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, which will be promulgating rules within a year.

The counties of Hood, Montague, Parker and Wise already have a new Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (“UTGCD”). The UTGCD's temporary rules were adopted effective August 18, 2008 and became effective January 1, 2009. The rules apply to any water well located in those counties, with two categories of exempt wells. Water wells used exclusively for domestic use, watering livestock, watering poultry, agriculture or irrigation, or any combination of the above are exempt. In addition, the exemption also includes wells or a combination of two wells that are not capable of producing more than 25 gallons per minute for one well or more than 30 gallons per minute in the case of two or more wells. Exemptions based on production capacity also must meet certain use criteria, i.e., for commercial use. Significantly, oil and gas wells are not exempt from the rules.

All wells, whether exempt or not, drilled after January 1, 2009, must be registered with the UTGCD. All non-exempt wells must be equipped with a water meter that meets the requirements set in the rules. Owners and operators of non-exempt wells are required to record the amount of groundwater produced monthly and submit an annual report no later than February 15 of each year showing the prior year's water use. Reporting also must include any groundwater transported out of the district for use. Non-exempt wells are also subject to a production fee of 22 cents per thousand gallons of water produced. There are also spacing rules to assure wells do not interfere with another well's operations.

Owners of existing exempt wells, however, may find it desirable to register for free as permitted under the new temporary rules. Registration ensures that any future wells located in the area will take into consideration the location and use of the existing water well so as not to interfere with it. Registration for all existing wells begins January 1, 2009. The deadline for registration of existing non-exempt wells is July 1, 2009.

Author Information
Cheryl Coon is a partner at Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller, LLP, practicing environmental law. She may be reached at 817-882-7620 or .