Odessa American OpEd by Clayton Williams

There are two sides to every story. While it’s up to you to decide which you believe, I’d hope you’d take the time to learn the facts—the real facts.

I have strong roots in Fort Stockton. It’s a town I cherish, love and have been dedicated to my entire life. Recently, however, our family feels that we have been wrongfully mischaracterized in our efforts to use our groundwater rights. Everyone who cares about property rights should care about this.

We currently hold historic and existing use permits from the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District, which allows us to produce water from our acreage for agricultural use. In July 2009, our company, Fort Stockton Holdings, LP, submitted an application to the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District asking only to use the same amount of water, but to transfer it to municipalities and industries where there is a great need for water. I have made it clear that I am not seeking to drill any new wells or withdraw more water than is already permitted to me for agricultural uses.

The decision to request a permit to transfer utilization of groundwater was well thought out and studied. Over the last 20 years, four studies have been conducted by reputable, objective hydrogeologists who reviewed and analyzed historic records of the groundwater use from the aquifer. All studies proved that transferring our water to others who need it badly will be safe for both the city and the aquifer. This water is needed for cities like Oddessa, Midland and San Angelo that face projected shortages of water and are already paying substantial energy costs to pump water uphill from limited surface water sources. The Fort Stockton Holdings water runs downhill, thus saving significant energy and money.

You might not know this from media reports, but there is an abundance of groundwater in Pecos County.  We are blessed that the resources exceed the consumption needs of the current and projected population. The Texas Water Development Board has projected that Fort Stockton’s water needs are less than 3,500 acre feet per year over the next 50 years, and the City currently has permits for approximately 6,000 acre feet of water per year.

Some people like to say that “keeping the water in Pecos County” is the best option. However, they are missing several key facts.  First, water isn’t at a stand still; It moves. So everyday, water comes through my land and moves on. As it moves north it becomes increasingly saltier, economically untreatable, thus unusable for human consumption and agricultural use. Right now, a lot of water is being wasted because it’s not being captured.

Currently, I’m using my historical water permit to grow crops. Those crops leave West Texas every day. If I’m granted my permit for transferring the same amount of water to my West Texas neighbors, Fort Stockton and Pecos County will benefit from job growth through the building of an underground pipeline and financial growth through receiving tax revenues.

I am a reasonable person. I would love nothing more than to sit down with the governing bodies of the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District and the City and reach an agreement that can satisfy all parties—the City, the District, me and most importantly, those who need this water most—like Odessa, Midland and other municipalities in the region.

Through this letter, I’m inviting the citizens of Fort Stockton to work with me. We will have water for ourselves and for our neighbors in West Texas.

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