Speaking Out: Clayton Williams

OpEd by Clayton Williams

There are certain things all Texans care about—property and water being two of them. Recently, my family has been put in the position to protect our rights to both.

I have strong roots in Fort Stockton. It’s a town I cherish, love and have been dedicated to my entire life. Those facts will never change.

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.  My family’s property rights in our groundwater were confirmed by the Texas Supreme Court in 1954. The laws are clear, and everyone should enjoy the fundamental right to enjoy and use their property.

We currently hold historic and existing use permits from the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District, which allow 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.  It is disturbing to our family that individuals would charge that we intend to greatly increase the amount of water used. It’s just not true.

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 at my family’s expense to confirm to ourselves as well as our neighbors, we engaged reputable, objective hydrogeologists to review and analyze historic records of the groundwater use from the aquifer. All of these studies, the latest of which was approved by the general manager of the Groundwater District, proved that transferring our water to others who need it badly will be safe for both the city and the aquifer.

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 the City of 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.

The Texas Water Development Board reports that 90 percent of the groundwater currently produced in Pecos County is used for irrigation. While irrigation may have been the best use of groundwater when my family began farming 50 years ago, irrigation is probably no longer the best use of water today because other communities in our region like Midland, Odessa and San Angelo face projected shortages of water and are already paying substantial energy costs to pump water uphill from limited surface water sources.

As already expressed, we care a great deal about Fort Stockton, which is why I offered over 10 years ago to give the City either a share of the water or the profits from its sale to neighboring West Texas communities.  I also recently offered to put the City’s water through our Reverse Osmosis plant, a critical process to make it drinkable. I have not heard a response from the City concerning these offers.

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 Midland, Odessa and other municipalities in the region.

Our great country, and the great state of Texas, has always looked toward the future. We have rewarded the entrepreneurs who took risks and undertook new enterprises. That’s what we’re trying to do here.  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.

Leave a Reply