U.S. Water News Online
VAN HORN, Texas -- Hundreds of residents and local
officials in drought-stricken far West Texas turned out recently to
oppose a plan to pump water for commercial sale from state land in
The state's General Land Office is negotiating with Midland-based
Rio Nuevo Ltd. for water leases on about 355,000 acres in Culberson,
Hudspeth, Presidio and Jeff Davis counties, said land office policy
director Trace Finley. Money from the leases would go into the
Permanent School Fund of Texas, he said.
But many of the 400 or so people at the Far West Texas Water
Planning Group's monthly meeting said they were unhappy about any
such deals and that they have not been informed.
``I think it's the biggest flim-flam job I've ever heard of,''
said Fred Hoffman, who has been ranching in Van Horn for 15 years.
``The more you can tell us about what you're doing, the less
likely you are to have a revolution in West Texas,'' said Tom Beard,
chairman of the water group.
Land office officials assured people at the meeting that the water
permits would still be issued locally and that the limited water
supply wouldn't be threatened.
``We don't want to do anything that is going to wreck, to ruin, to
leave waterless West Texas,'' said Bill Warnick, land office general
Finley said Rio Nuevo doesn't have any buyers for the water and
that it would start pumping water for export a year or two after it
starts drilling test wells.
Rio Nuevo has offered a bonus check to be deposited in the
Permanent School Fund when a lease is signed, and many in the crowd
shouted out ``bribe'' when Finley discussed it.
Some at the meeting objected to the fact that the land office
plans to sign a lease before scientific studies can determine whether
water mining would harm local communities. Some said the plan puts
too much responsibility on local water districts that have little
legal experience or money. And of course, they worry about the
``Right now, all our strategic plans show there is no water to
send anywhere else,'' said Becky Brewster, a local water planning
After the meeting, Finley said the deal could be killed by the
local planning group.
``If it's rejected and it's done in a fair and objective manner,
the project would be dead,'' Finley said. But Land Commissioner Jerry
Patterson could ignore the local group's opposition if he feels it is
unfair to Rio Nuevo, Finley said.
Officials in the area were already worried about the water supply.
The town of Presidio passed a resolution opposing the export of
water from the region, and Mayor Alcee Tavarez has sent a letter to
Gov. Rick Perry asking that he oppose the project.
``They basically want to shove this down our throats,'' Tavarez
said. ``We hadn't heard about this until we heard about it in the
newspaper. This caught us totally off guard.''
Tavarez said the town has tried to slow development recently
because with the drought, the water table in the aquifer that feeds
the city has been dropping. One of the city's three wells is on
General Land Office land.
Environmental groups in October asked state officials to put a
moratorium on the leasing of groundwater and warned that other parts
of the state also may be under consideration for water mining.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.