- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s top land manager says parts of eastern New Mexico are in crisis mode as the Ogallala Aquifer is depleted.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn pointed to the lack of alternative sources of fresh water for the region along the New Mexico-Texas border, where oil and natural gas development that uses water is ramping up again and communities are looking to shore up their share of what water is available.

Starting July 1, the State Land Office will review hydrological information before renewing or approving new access to drill wells on trust land that involve the use of fresh water from the Ogallala aquifer for oil and gas production and related activities.

“The rapid rate of depletion of the Ogallala aquifer and lack of alternative sources of fresh water is not only threatening drinking water within the Great Plains, but it is also devaluing state trust lands and negatively impacting trust beneficiaries,” Dunn said in a recent statement.

The Ogallala Aquifer is a massive groundwater supply that underlies parts of seven states.

Currently, there are more than 100 well site easements issued by the State Land Office, with many dating back to the 1980s. Dunn says other non-fresh water sources are available for use in the oilfields.

Under the new policy, individuals can still apply for an easement that might involve the use of fresh water for oil and gas production, although additional documentation and hydrologic information are now required with all applications.

Eunice Mayor Matt White told the Hobbs News-Sun (https://bit.ly/19NMSEn) he’s concerned about how Dunn’s policy might affect his southeastern New Mexico community.

“Everything in town is oil related,” he said. “I agree in principle with what he’s trying to do. We need to save our fresh water. But do I run every business out of town? Do we go broke? I don’t know.”

Eunice officials say more than 20 percent of the town’s estimated $1.5 million in water sales revenue during the past year came from oil and gas related activities.

Industry officials say companies in the region have begun efforts to find alternatives to fresh water, including using recycling and reuse systems.

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