CON: Cities cling to its water supply, put residents' needs first
Sept. 23, 2012 at 4:23 a.m.
Updated Sept. 24, 2012 at 4:24 a.m.
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How should water be used?
Oil and gas production continues to increase in South Texas.
Eagle Ford Shale drilling permits have increased from 26 in 2008 to 2,957 in 2012 through August, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas.
To meet the demand by oil and gas companies, some cities are selling water to the companies drilling in their areas.
Combine the increased need for water with the continuing drought conditions - which as of mid-September ranged from abnormally dry to moderate drought, according to the National Weather Service - and the question arises: Should municipalities relinquish any of this valuable commodity or reserve its use for residents?
With increased oil and gas production swirling around them and the demand for water from that industry multiplying, some cities are choosing not to sell the limited resource.
"We have been approached, but decided due to the prolonged drought, we should reserve our water resources for municipal use," said Victoria City Manager Charmelle Garrett.
Other regional cities, too, have a similar stance on water sales.
In the Lavaca County town of Moulton, where several new wells have come on line in recent months, the city isn't selling its water, either.
"Limited water production is required to support municipal purposes," said Moulton City Administrator Deborah Pattison.
In DeWitt County, one of the busiest areas of Eagle Ford Shale activity, some towns are also clinging to their water supply.
"The city of Yorktown has not sold water to oil companies," said City Administrator Robert Mendez. "We truly respect the fact that water is essential for the oil industry; however, the city's first priority is to our citizens.
"The other factor is the hot and dry conditions that we have been experiencing the past few years."
It's those drought conditions that have the Texas Water Development Board urging caution going forward.
In the board's 2012 State Water Plan, the primary message is a simple one - in serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses and its agricultural enterprises.
The plan adds that in Region L, which includes the Crossroads, by 2060 the population is expected to increase 75 percent.
By 2060, the total water demands for the region are projected to increase by 32 percent, according to the plan. Starting in 2020, municipal water use makes up the largest share of these demands and is projected to experience the greatest increase over the planning period.
Raulie Irwin, a member of the Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District board of directors, urges cities to consider the future when selling water.
Irwin also suggested that cities recycle any type of wastewater.
A move to use recycled wastewater instead of fresh water in fracking is something the industry also is well aware of, said Stephen Ingram, technology manager for Halliburton.
In a 2011 presentation at a conference in San Angelo, Ingram said the industry needs to find ways to limit the procurement of water used for fracking.
"We're using a lot of water. We need to figure out a way to utilize less of it."