What Exactly Is A Water District?

The simple answer to that question is that it is a local political subdivision of the State, governed by a board of directors. Also known as MUDs — Municipal Utility Districts — they are authorized under the Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 52, or Article XVI, Section 59.

Enabling Laws

With the passage of the municipal bond law in 1895, cities were given the authority to issue tax-supported bonds to acquire a water supply. This financing had to be within the tax limits prescribed by the Constitution.

In 1904, Section 52 of Article III authorized the Legislature to pass laws permitting counties, districts and all other political subdivisions of the state to issue bonds in an amount not to exceed one-fourth of the total assessed value of real property for the “improvement of rivers, creeks, and streams to prevent overflows and to permit the navigation thereof or irrigation thereof….” This amendment also authorized the Legislature to permit any county, district or political subdivision to levy a tax at a rate sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on such bonds.

After the terrible floods in Texas during 1912-14, people across the state realized there was a real need to confirm the State’s duty to not only prevent floods but, also through the storage of flood waters, to conserve the water for beneficial usages. This was the genesis for the passage of Section 59 of Article XVI in 1917, which allowed water districts to operate with unlimited bonded indebtedness.

In 1925, legislation was passed which authorized the creation of Water Control and Improvement Districts — WCIDs — with the same bonded indebtedness and taxing authority.

How Water Districts are Created

To create a new water district, a developer files an application through the Office of the State Attorney General to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The application outlines the developer’s plans for providing various services such as water, sewer and drainage to areas where municipal services are not already in place. A Board of Directors is established, which is assisted by qualified professionals who provide services on a fee basis.

One of the most important features about water districts is that they are governed by a board of directors elected by the voters in the district. This board is responsible for conducting all the business of the district, including services or functions contracted to other parties.

Water districts must comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Texas Open Records Act and have an annual audit performed by an independent auditing firm. The best way to learn about the function and responsibilities of your water district is to attend a meeting.

Not all water districts are created equal. Some are established under General Law by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ); some by Commissioners Court; and others are created by the governing board of a city. Special law districts are created by an act of the State Legislature. All water districts, however, must comply with the laws contained in the Texas Water Code.

Mud Rights and Responsibilities

While the powers and responsibilities of a specific water district are determined when it is created, water districts are generally empowered to:

  1. Incur Debt: Most districts can issue bonds and other forms of debt. If that debt is to be secured by tax revenues, voters in the district must approve the plan. In most cases, bonds secured in this manner must also be approved by the TNRCC.
  2. Levy Taxes: If voters approve unlimited tax bonds, a debt service tax to pay the bonds is also approved. Each year, the water district board is obligated to levy a property tax adequate to cover the debt. This tax is levied on all property in the district based on appraised value, regardless of services received, and must comply with the Property Tax Code. The tax rate must be published each year and public hearings held if the effective tax rate increases more than three percent over the previous year. District voters may also approve a maintenance tax.
  3. Adopt Rules and Charge for Services: The district adopts rules which specify the method, terms and conditions of water supply and sewage treatment service.
  4. Expend Public Funds: Districts can spend public funds for authorized district activities.
  5. Contract for Goods and Services: For contracts more than $15,000, the district must obtain three competitive bids. For those more than $25,000, the district must advertise for competitive bids.
  6. Obtain Easements: In order to install, inspect, repair and maintain water distribution and collection lines, a district may obtain and use easements to access land owned by another person; and to
  7. Right of Eminent Domain: Purchase property for district purposes under this legal provision if deemed necessary and approved by the board.

What Do You Know About The Water You Drink?

With the summer months coming on, there are lots of good reasons to learn to use our water resources more efficiently. In Texas, our conventional fresh-water supplies are already 75 to 80 percent developed, so it is just common sense that we put water conservation and reuse measures into effect – not only to preserve and extend limited water supplies, but to save some real money, too.

Water customers have a lot to gain by using water wisely. Consider, for example, that if everyone cut back just 10 to 15 percent in personal water use, we could save billions of dollars over the next 50 years. The effort to conserve water requires us to change some wasteful habits, and it must begin now. Some steps are simple: don’t leave the water running in the sink, for example, while you put toothpaste on your toothbrush and scrub your teeth. Turn it on for rinsing only. Others, like landscaping modifications, can take more time, thought and resources to accomplish. But, everyone can participate by using water wiser in some way.

Here are some ways to save both water and money at home:

1. For an investment of $10 to $20, homeowners can install low-flow shower heads, place dams or bottles in the toilet tank, install low-flow aerators on the faucets, and repair dripping faucets and leaking toilets. This could save the average household 10,000 to 25,000 gallons each year for a family of four, and would pay for itself in less than a year! Even more savings can be realized if good outdoor water conservation is practiced for the lawn and garden.

2. When building a new home or remodeling a bathroom, install a new low-volume flush toilet that uses only 1.6 gallons per flush.

3. Test toilets for leaks. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water in the toilet tank, but do not flush the toilet. Watch to see if the coloring appears in the bowl within a few minutes. It if does, the toilet has a silent leak that needs to be repaired.

4. Use some type of toilet tank displacement device to reduce the volume of water in the tank, but still provide enough for flushing. (Bricks are NOT recommended because they eventually crumble and could damage the working mechanisms.) Displacement devices are not recommended with new low-volume flush toilets.

5. Do not use hot water when cold water will do. Period.

6. In the kitchen…

Scrape the dishes clean instead of rinsing them before placing them in the dishwasher.

Fill a pan of water — or put a stopper in the sink — for washing and rinsing pots, pans, dishes, and cooking implements rather than turning on the water faucet each time a rinse is needed.

Never run the dishwasher without a full load. This will save water, energy, detergent and money.

Keep a container of drinking water in the refrigerator. Running water from the tap until it is cool enough to drink is wasteful.

Use a small pan of cold water when cleaning vegetables rather than letting the water run over them.

Use less water for cooking. Not only does it save water, but also food is more nutritious when the vitamins and minerals are not “boiled” out of them and poured down the sink with the extra water.

Always keep water conservation in mind. Avoid doing wasteful things like making a huge pot of coffee if you’re only going to drink one or two cups, or even throwing away a glass full of ice after it cooled a few swallows of water. These things may not seem like much, but they add up over time.

7. In the Laundry…

Did you know that 32 to 59 gallons of water are required for each washing machine load? Wash only full loads of clothes when using your washing machine.

Use the lowest possible water level setting on the washing machine.

Use cold water whenever possible. This saves energy, too, and conserves the hot water for other uses. This is also better for most of today’s fabrics.

8. Appliances and Plumbing…

When purchasing new appliances, check the water requirements of various models and brands. Some use less water than others.

Check water line connections and faucets for leaks. A slow drip can waste as much as 170 gallons of water EACH DAY, or 5,000 gallons a month. This will increase your water bill.

Repair leaky faucets promptly. It is easy to do, it costs very little and can make a substantial savings in your water bills.

Make sure that the line from the water meter to your house is free of leaks. To check, turn off all indoor and outdoor faucets and water-using appliances. The water meter should be read at 10 to 20 minute intervals. If it continues to run or turn, a leak probably exists and needs to be located.

Insulate all hot water pipes to reduce the delays (and wasted water) experienced while waiting for the water to heat up.

Set the thermostat on the hot water heater at a reasonable level. Extremely hot settings waste water (because it takes some extra cold water to make it usable) and energy and can even cause minor burns.

9. Outdoor Use…

Water only when needed and do not over-water. Soil can absorb only so much moisture, and the rest will simply run off. A timer can help. In the summer months, one and a half inches of water applied once a week will keep most Texas grasses alive and healthy.

The best time to water lawns is in the morning during the hot summer months. Otherwise, much of the water can simply evaporate between the sprinkler and the lawn.

Use a sprinkler that throws large drops of water — rather than a fine mist — to avoid evaporation. Sprinklers that send the water out on a low angle also help control evaporation.

Set automatic sprinkler systems to provide thorough, but infrequent, watering. Rain shut-off devices can prevent watering in the rain.

Use drip irrigation systems for bedded plants, trees or shrubs, or turn soaker hoses upside-down so the holes are on the bottom. This will help avoid evaporation.

Don’t water the streets, driveways or sidewalks…they will never grow a thing!

Condition the soil with mulch or compost before planting grass or flower beds so the water will sink in rather than run off.

Do not “scalp” lawns when mowing during hot weather. Taller grass holds moisture better.

Use a watering can or hand water with a hose in small areas of the lawn that need extra attention, and for small flower beds along walks and driveways. Hanging baskets can sometimes be watered more efficiently by taking them down and placing them in the path of a sprinkler instead of running water through the hose.

Don’t “sweep” walks and decks with water. Use a broom or rake instead.

Consider using water-wise plants. Learn what types of grass, shrubbery, and bedding plants do best in our community. Chose plants that have low water needs, are drought-tolerant, and are adapted to the area in which they will be planted.

Water Conservation is making the most efficient
use of our state’s precious water resources.


Oops! We’ve Sprung A Leak

Residents occasionally call the Water District with reports of leaks in their yards. Almost 90 percent of these calls result in repairs to the District’s lines and meters with no direct cost to the customer. But the other 10 percent are related to customer lines, which are leaking costly, metered water. What do you do?

Q. How do you determine if it’s your line that is leaking?
A. This is relatively easy. Each home and business in the District has a meter. The meter is usually located near the street on one side of the lot. The meters are also inside a meter box, which is typically constructed of black plastic. The cover for the meter box will lift off with just slight effort.

Inside, there are generally two meters: one for your home and one for your neighbor. As you face your home, standing on the street side of the meter box, the meter closest to your home should monitor your water service.

Wipe any soil or dirt away from the glass lens that encloses the meter register. The register is round with a large red pointer, and somewhat resembles an automobile odometer, with a small red triangle near the center of the register.

The “odometer” section accumulates the gallons used each month for your water bill. The digits on the left have a white background and the digits on the right have a black background. Only the white background digits on the left are recorded for your water bill. These digits indicate how many thousands of gallons are consumed through the meter.

The three digits with the black background indicate usage less than one thousand gallons and are not recorded. This is due to the District’s billing structure which only charges for water in one thousand gallon increments. You can check your water consumption by recording these numbers each month and subtracting the prior month’s reading from your current reading. The date that the District reads your meter is recorded on your bill if you wish to coordinate your readings with those of the District.

The large red pointer on the register indicates usage from 0 to 10 gallons. If this pointer is moving, water is flowing through the meter.

Q. What do you do if you suspect that you have a leak?

A. The small red triangle in the center of the register is a flow indicator. Any movement of this triangle indicates that water is flowing through the meter, even if the red pointer is not moving. If this is the case, you have a leak on your line.

Q. So, you have a leak on your private water line; how do you determine where the leak may be?

A. Locate the main valve for the water line entering your home. This is typically on the side of the house near an outside hose faucet. Turn this valve off and return to the meter. If movement continues, the lead is on your line between the meter and the home. If movement has stopped on the meter, the leak is inside the home.

The most common cause of leaks inside the home is a leaking toilet flush valve. A leak can exist here without any visible or audible indications. An easy method of checking for a leaking toilet is to add red or any other bright food coloring to the water in the tank. Observe the water in the bowl after approximately 30 minutes. If the bowl water has begun to change color, you have a leaking flush valve that needs to be repaired promptly.

If you discover a leak between the meter and your house, contact the District immediately. Leaks within your house are your responsibility to repair.

Some Facts and Figures About Our National Water Supply

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our nation’s 56,000+ community water systems have spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build drinking water treatment and distribution systems and another $22 billion per year to operate and maintain them.

There are approximately 1 million miles of pipelines and aqueducts that carry water in the United States and Canada. That’s long enough to circle the earth 40 times.

Public water suppliers process about 38 billion gallons of water each day for domestic and public use.

More than 79,000 tons of chlorine are used every year to treat water supplies in the US and Canada.

Of all the earth’s water, 97 percent is salt water found in oceans and seas; 1 percent is fresh water available for drinking; and 2 percent is currently frozen.

Scientists say that water is recycled by nature over and over; there is no new water being made. That means we have the same amount of water now as when the earth was formed.

About two thirds of the human body is made up of water; 70 percent of the skin is water, and blood is 80-90 percent water.

The first municipal water filtration works opened in Paisley, Scotland in 1832.

More than 13 million households get their water from their own private wells and are responsible for treating and pumping the water themselves.

About 800,000 water wells are drilled each year in this country for domestic, farming, commercial and water testing purposes.

The US average daily requirement for fresh water is about 40 billion gallons a day, with another 300 billion gallons used untreated for agriculture and commercial purposes.

Every man, woman and child in this country uses about 100 gallons of water a day at home.

We can survive for about a month without food, but for only 5 to 7 days without water.

On average, households use about 50 percent of their water for lawn sprinkling. Toilets use the most water inside, consuming about 27 gallons per person per day.

The average 5 minute shower sends about 15 to 25 gallons of water down the drain, but an automatic dishwasher uses only 9 to 12 gallons to clean a load of dishes.

You can refill an 8 oz. glass with water approximately 15,000 times for the same cost as a six-pack of soft drinks.

If every household in the US had a faucet that dripped once each second, we would waste 928 million gallons of water a day.

Backflow Prevention Devices Help Safeguard the Water Supply

When water flows backwards through the water supply system, it is called backsiphonage or backflow. When that water is accidentally mixed with hazardous chemicals or bacteria, it can be dangerous…even fatal!

The danger could come from improperly installed pools and sprinkler systems. In many districts, homeowners are required to have their water district inspect a new pool or sprinkler system to help prevent this problem. (Check with your district about specific rules and regulations governing pools, spas, and irrigation systems.)

Another potential danger to the water system comes from a surprising source. Did you know that a common garden hose could contaminate the water supply if it is connected to a harmful substance and the pressure in the water main line drops while your hose is submerged in polluted or contaminated water? The water (and whatever is in it) could be sucked back into your pipes and your drinking water supply.

Water pressure drops can happen when firefighters battle a nearby blaze or when repairs are made due to a broken water line. This contamination could come from the chemicals used to fertilize and kill weeds on your lawn. The cleansers used in your kitchen and bathroom could be hazardous if swallowed, as could bacteria in the water from your pool or waterbed.

Fortunately, keeping your water safe from these contaminants is not that difficult to do. Take the following precautions to protect your drinking water:

  • Buy and install inexpensive backflow prevention devices for all threaded faucets around your home. They are usually available at hardware stores and home improvement centers.
  • If you install a pool or sprinkler system, have a representative from your water district inspect the device for proper installation, whether this is required or not.
  • Never submerge hoses in buckets, pools, tubs or sinks.
  • Always keep the end of the hose clear of possible contaminants.
  • Do not use spray attachments without a backflow prevention device. The chemicals used on your lawn are toxic and can be fatal if ingested.

Are There Water Wasters At Your House?

When everything is quiet at your house, do you ever hear what sounds like water running? Do family members leave the water running while they brush their teeth or do the dishes? Does anyone regularly take 15 minute or half hour showers?

If you answer “yes” to these questions, it’s not just water that is going down the drain at your house…you’re probably wasting money, as well.

While we are fortunate not to have acute water shortages in our area, efficient use of our water resources offers major environmental, public health, and economic benefits, and enables us to meet the needs of existing and future residents.

The key to efficient use of any of our natural resources is old-fashioned common sense. Instead of taking our water supplies for granted, think about how much water your family uses every day, and actively look for ways to use it more efficiently. That means fixing leaky faucets as well as taking shorter showers!

Efficiency Programs Across the Country…

Efforts to promote the more efficient use of water are underway at regional, state and national levels designed to prevent pollution and reduce demands on the nation’s water and energy infrastructure.

As part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s long-term efforts, the agency has created WAVE — Water Alliances for Voluntary Efficiency — a non-regulatory water-efficiency partnership to encourage communities, businesses, and institutions to reduce water consumption.

The EPA points out that the lodging industry alone could save 32 billion gallons annually — that’s enough water to supply 250,000 average-sized households. The related energy savings could reach one trillion btu’s per year!

Efficiency Begins At Home…

Let’s face it…America uses more water per person than any other country on earth. We have the luxury to drink it, bathe in it, and turn it on almost any time we want.

We live in a water-intensive economy. Did you know that you can refill an 8 oz. glass of water approximately 15,000 times for what it would cost you to buy a six-pack of soft drinks? It takes 36,000 gallons of water to produce one automobile — enough water for a family of four to bathe, brush their teeth, and wash clothes for more than nine months. And, a one-year supply of food for one person requires more than 1.5 million gallons of pure water to produce!

About 6.8 billion gallons of water each day are used in this country just to flush toilets. One leaky toilet can waste more than 20,000 gallons of water a year. Experts suggest that one in every five toilets leak.

When a toilet leaks, the clean water in the tank slowly seeps into the bowl. Since the bowl water always must stay at the same level, clean water drains into the sewer pipes without ever having been used.

If you hear water “running” or you have to jiggle the handle after flushing, your toilet may have a tank leak. Here’s how to check.

Take the lid off the tank and flush the toilet. As the tank starts to fill up, drop a couple of drops of food coloring into the tank (not the toilet bowl). Wait about ten minutes and then check the toilet bowl. If any of the food coloring has found its way into the bowl, you have a tank leak. Don’t ignore the problem. Repairing the leak may not be too difficult, and do-it-yourselfers can get help and instructions from the local home improvement center.

How Much is Enough?

During the summer months, between 50 and 80 percent of the water used by households is used outside. to water grass and plants. Experts say that most lawns get twice the amount of water they need, and that an inch of water per week will keep a lawn green and healthy. If lawns and shrubs get a good soaking less frequently (instead of a sprinkling every day), their roots are encouraged to grow downward in search of water.

Another way to use water efficiently in landscaping, is to select ground coverings and plants that are native to our area. They are used to the heat and require little water or maintenance to stay healthy.

Learn to use water more efficiently. Use your head instead of your garden hose!