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T. Boone Pickens in Texas

The notorious oilman has acquired land overlying the Ogallala aquifer and wants to pump and sell as much as 200,000 acre-feet of groundwater annually to one of Texas’ metropolitan centers.

A new undertaking by Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is even more disconcerting. Pickens has been acquiring acreage overlying the Ogallala aquifer with hopes that he could pump and sell the as much as 200,000 AFY of water to one of the state’s metropolitan centers – El Paso, Lubbock, San Antonio, or Dallas-Fort Worth. Ogallala is already severely depleted. The West Texas farmers rely on the aquifer for water. The aquifer’s minimal recharge rate of less then one AFY means that its users are mining fossil water that will not be replenished.

Pickens projects that his prices would be adjusted according to the distance the water has to be pumped: El Paso would pay $1,400 per acre-foot, Dallas would pay $800, San Antonio – more than $1000. Although building a pipeline will be expensive, an estimated $1-$2 billion, these prices are still very high.

The Panhandle Conservation District sanctions extraction up to one AFY per acre of land. Pickens and his partners currently own water rights for 150 acres and are seeking rights for 50 more. This could translate into pumping as much as 65 billion gallons of water a year. The conservation district attempted to reduce the planned extraction amount by half but was not able to because Pickens’ pumping level was equal to that of the Canadian River Authority, a public water supplier that has already been granted an approval to pump. Pickens argued that by law, both had to be treated equally. If Pickens lines up a buyer, financing would come and unprecedented amounts of groundwater would begin to be sold for colossal profits.

A more comprehensive groundwater regulatory regime is needed to prevent devastation of Texas groundwater resources. Further, Texas should abandon the Rule of Capture doctrine. Today, Texas is the only state to retain this antiquated rule.

    » cmep | Water | us | bulksales | texas

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