U.S. Water News Online
EL PASO, Texas -- Facing a possible water shortfall in the
coming decades, city leaders approved negotiations for the purchase
of some 25,000 acres near Dell City that would be used as a water
If negotiations are successful, water from wells on the land would
be desalinated and pumped about 90 miles west through a pipeline to
El Paso. The water farm could provide up to 60,000 acre feet a year,
which is about half of El Paso's current annual usage, said Ed
Archuleta, El Paso Water Utilities General Manager. El Paso now uses
about 115,000 acre feet of water annually
``This will be one of the most significant water supply
acquisitions this board could ever make,'' Archuleta told the El Paso
Public Service Board, which approved the negotiations. ``In my
opinion, this will give us (adequate) water for about 100 years or
Land, rights of way, design, engineering and construction of the
project are estimated to cost between $400 million and $500 million,
Archuleta said. No timeline has been established.
``The Dell Valley area (is) important because the aquifers are
rechargeable and renewable,'' Archuleta said.
The Public Service Board will negotiate the purchase with the Dell
Valley Water Rights Owners, a group that owns about 40 percent of the
permitted water acres in the valley. About 30 farmers and ranchers
own the remainder.
The amount of water exported would be limited to 2.8 acre feet of
water per acre per year, Archuleta said, a number set in the rules of
the Hudspeth County Underground Water Conservation District No. 1.
The limit is expected to keep enough water in the aquifer, even
with water being exported, to allow sustainable agriculture in the
valley for the foreseeable future, said Bill Miller, president of
C.L. Land Co.
Miller's company is one of three that formed the Dell Valley Water
Rights Owners group. Initially, the land would be leased back to
farmers so they can continue growing crops, Archuleta said.
``We've been farming in the valley for 27 years,'' Miller said.
``In the interim, this preserves our ability to continue farming.
Ultimately, farming will probably be taken down significantly.''
Some Dell Valley ranchers have said their water rights are being
taken because of rules that peg rights to past use. And when the
water district boundaries were expanded in the last Legislative
session, more ranch land was included.
``If you've been pumping, you get to keep your water rights. If
not, no water rights. You don't water pastures,'' said Laura Lynch,
who was born and raised in Dell City where her family runs a farm.
``When you put the farmers against the ranchers, it's painful,''
Lynch said in a recent interview.
Miller said the rights go to longtime residents and the expansion
was meant to make the boundaries line up with the boundaries of the
Bone Spring-Victorio Peak Aquifer, which the district manages.
He said that without the boundary expansion, someone could have
come in just outside the boundary and pumped the aquifer dry under
the state's rule of capture.
Archuleta said he anticipates it will take two or three years to
clear up ownership so the board can ensure it has clear title to the
water rights it intends to purchase.
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