Texas Water Commission

By: Terry L. Hadley

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 1995

The Texas Water Commission was the state's primary regulatory agency for water resources. Throughout its history, the TWC was responsible for protecting surface and groundwater quality and ensuring that utility and water district customers received adequate services. The TWC also implemented state laws relating to water and enforced all laws, rules, orders, permits, licenses, and standards under its jurisdiction. Water quality monitoring and management responsibilities included wastewater treatment plant certification, surface water rights administration, dam safety management, water well driller regulation, and water district supervision. Other duties included rate-setting for some privately owned public water and wastewater systems and the administration of flood control projects and the national flood insurance program. In 1992 the commission was given jurisdiction over municipal solid-waste management. Its responsibility had already included industrial and hazardous waste management and waste minimization initiatives. The TWC also coordinated state responses to oil and hazardous materials spills and regulated petroleum storage tanks. Another major program of the TWC was "Clean Texas 2000," a cooperative effort between private industry and the TWC. Participants worked voluntarily toward a goal of reducing by 60 percent the release of toxic substances, the generation of hazardous pollutants, and the disposal of solid waste in landfills during the period from 1987 to 2000. Three full-time commissioners headed the TWC by gubernatorial appointment and served staggered six-year terms, with one commissioner serving as chair. The commission usually met once a week in Austin. Duties included establishing agency policy, adopting rules, consideration of permit applications, and ordering enforcement actions against violators. The commission appointed an executive director for program administration, and a general counsel, a chief clerk, an ombudsman, an independent public interest counsel, and an independent head of the Office of Hearings Examiners.

Water development in Texas began in 1905 when the first Texas drainage districts were established. Water rights procedures were developed in 1913 when the Burges-Glasscock Act established the Board of Water Engineers. Between 1913 and the formal beginning of the TWC, numerous regional councils, authorities, and districts regulated various aspects of water quality and water resources. However, a statewide plan for the development, conservation, and beneficial use of Texas water was not adopted until the Water Planning Act of 1957 was signed into law. In 1962 the Texas Water Commission replaced the Board of Water Engineers. Lawmakers gave the new agency additional authority to measure, eliminate, and prevent water pollution. The TWC also began licensing water well drillers, inspecting water district construction projects, and overseeing operations of the state reclamation engineer. The agency was called the Texas Water Rights Commission from 1965 to 1977, when it was changed back to Texas Water Commission. In 1985 the Texas Water Commission absorbed part of the Texas Department of Water Resources and became the primary state agency for implementing state water laws. Another expansion occurred in 1992 when the TWC took over functions of the Water Hygiene Division and Solid Waste Bureau of the Texas Department of Health. The TWC also absorbed the Texas Water Well Drillers Board and the Board of Irrigators that same year. In its final year of operation (fiscal year 1993), the TWC had a budget of nearly $128 million and employed 1,800 workers. In 1991 the Texas legislature ordered the consolidation of the TWC and the Texas Air Control Board into the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, effective September 1, 1993. The TNRCC became responsible for the regulation of air quality, water quality, and waste management in Texas.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Terry L. Hadley, “Texas Water Commission,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-water-commission.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995