HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Oil and gas companies need water to drill and produce, but State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has taken action to cut back the use of fresh water from the Ogallala aquifer, which is a source of drinking water serving Hobbs and other cities in southeastern New Mexico.
Dunn sent a letter May 23 announcing that he will stop issuing or renewing easements intended for use of freshwater for oil industry activities.
Dunn’s action was in response to the City of Eunice selling water for hydraulic fracturing or fracking, he told Hobbs News-Sun Wednesday. He will continue to issue easements for water going to citizens, he said.
“What my concern is that the Ogallala is a depleting resource,” Dunn said.
He recommended drilling into the Capitan Reef for access to non-potable water as an alternative.
Mayor Matt White brought up the issue at Tuesday’s city council meeting. He sees the move as a threat to the city of Eunice, which heavily relies on the oil and gas industries.
“He can’t control the water because we own the water rights, but he can stop us from pumping across his land by pipeline,” he said. “The way I look at it, the lifeblood of this town is the water. If we can’t use it for any oil- and gas-related activities, what are we going to do?”
Water used in oil and gas operations accounts for about 3 percent of freshwater in the whole state, White said. He pointed out that farmers use much more water for agriculture, and he said Dunn, who is a rancher himself, should be going after them instead.
Dunn countered by saying that water used in agriculture does not have the lasting impact that fracking does.