Mesa Water Inc. said that the last legal issue concerning its plans to sell groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer in the Texas Panhandle to any area of the state has been resolved. At a meeting of the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD) in White Deer on July 17, the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA) formally withdrew its opposition to Mesa's previously issued pumping permits.
Mesa Water is comprised of landowners in Roberts County that for more than two and a half years have sought permits to market their water to north central Texas or San Antonio.
"It has been a slow and expensive process to get our permits," said Boone Pickens, president of Mesa Water and a Roberts County landowner and rancher. "We were stymied on selling our water, but now we're confident that we will be able to develop some real interest."
Mesa's permits allow for annual removal of up to one acre-foot of water per surface acre beneath about 150,000 acres of private land in the northeast Texas Panhandle. Plans call for supplying between 150,000 and 200,000 acre-feet of water annually via pipeline to either north central Texas or the San Antonio region, as well as to towns and cities along the way.
"Once we have a buyer in place, we've been assured of financing that would allow us to deliver water at competitive rates within five years," said Pickens.
Under the terms of the local District's rules, at least 50 percent of the Ogallala Aquifer's 1998 volume must remain in place in 2048. In addition to the approximately 150,000 acres allied with the Mesa Group, CRMWA has 43,000 acres and Amarillo has 72,000 acres. CRMWA began pumping water from its well field in December 2001.
Only about four percent of the northeast Texas Panhandle is suited for farming; about 100,000 acres are under irrigation out of 2.5 million acres in the four counties of Ochiltree, Lipscomb, Roberts and Hemphill. Moreover, there is no current or projected demand for additional water in the area due to modest growth forecasts.
"In its submission to the Texas Water Development Board, the Region A (Amarillo) Planning Group declined to include our water in their 50-year plan," said Pickens, "so this is stranded, surplus water that can best be put to use in more water-needy regions of the state."
He added that Mesa will continue to study possibilities for using a portion of the water in West Texas, while at the same time stepping up efforts to assess interest from other markets.
"The permits put us on an equal footing with CRMWA and the City of Amarillo in that we now have the right to extract and export the water," he said.