Thursday, June 07, 2018

New Mexico official: Texans are 'stealing' water and selling it back for fracking

That’s because on the Texas side, where the “rule of capture” rules groundwater policy, people basically can pump water from beneath their land to their heart’s content. But on the New Mexico side, the state has imposed tight regulations on both surface and groundwater that restrict supply. Here’s the rub — or the opportunity, depending on your perspective: With an oil fracking boom driving demand for freshwater on both sides of the state line in these parts, Texas landowners are helping to fill the void with water from the Lone Star State — including from at least one county in which Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a drought. Now a top New Mexico politician is crying foul, saying that unregulated pumping from wells next to the state line is depleting the shared aquifers that supply water to southern New Mexico. “Texas is stealing New Mexico’s water,” said New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. “If you put a whole bunch of straws in Texas and you don’t have any straws in New Mexico, you’re sucking all the water from under New Mexico out in Texas and then selling it back to New Mexico.” The difference in ownership of land in the two states contributes to the divergent water policies. In Texas, more than 90 percent of the land is privately owned. In New Mexico, by contrast, only 43 percent is owned by individuals, while 57 percent is in government or tribal hands. Dunn says he has already found at least seven unpermitted water lines snaking from Texas across state trust lands he oversees, and he believes millions of gallons a day are being pumped into his state for use in oil and gas exploration. The commissioner, who oversees 9 million surface acres of state trust lands, said he has quit issuing new fresh water well permits for the oil and gas industry on agency-supervised property, but he can’t stop the pumping in Texas. And experts say there is no law barring unlimited sales of Texas water to New Mexico buyers — making the transfers hard to quantify...MORE

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