Groundwater Conservation District Finance in Texas: Results of a Preliminary Study


The preferred method of groundwater management in Texas is by locally formed groundwater conservation districts (GCDs). However, not all of Texas groundwater is managed by a district; some areas have not voted to form a GCD. There are 99 GCDs in Texas with 2 pending; only 174 of the 254 counties are covered by a GCD. GCDs are financed by ad valorem taxes, fees, and grants. Not all GCDs have ad valorem tax support. Revenues from the responding GCDs in this study range from $20,000 annually to $2,632,982. Some cannot open their offices daily. All need money for research to determine the actual amount of groundwater in their district, its sources, and its characteristics. Tax rates for the GCDs with ad valorem tax authority in this study run from $.005/$100 valuation to $.035/$100 valuation, meaning a $200,000 home in these districts would pay from $10 to $70 annually, not as much as a few cups of Starbucks coffee cost annually. All Texans agree water is life and groundwater is one of our most precious resources, therefore GCDs deserve more financial resources. The Texas Water Code provides a number of tools for GCDs to finance their operations including ad valorem taxation levies, issuance of bonds, notes, and promulgation of fees to name a few. However, in many of the GCDs who responded to the study, these tools are not practical to use. Since ad valorem taxation and bond authority must be granted by local voter approval, these tools are unavailable in some GCDs as well.

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