Moving Ogallala aquifer groundwater to other uses and places in Texas

Nebraska's attempt to prevent the interstate movement of water has been discussed earlier. However, some states place limits on the intrastate movement of water. The Kansas Water Transfer Act, for example, regulates water diversions exceeding 2.36 million cubic metres per year transported 56 km or more, with special permitting requirements (Kansas Statutes Annotated, 2005, ยงยง82a-1501, et seq.).

In contrast, the Rule of Capture in Texas permits landowners to pump water and use it on or off the land overlying the aquifer. Diversions of the Ogallala aquifer groundwater already exist in Texas, and more are planned. For example, the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA), which supplies water to almost 500,000 people in 11 cities, draws water from Lake Meridith and Ogallala wells in the Texas Panhandle. The CRMWA has obtained permits for 49.32 million cubic metres of water per year from the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District #3. The City of Amarillo has also purchased water rights for 177,840 ha in Roberts County (Water Ranching, 2002).

The Mesa Water Project (MWP), a large project proposed in 1999, would pump and move 246.6 million cubic metres of Ogallala aquifer water per year to municipalities in the state. The MWP involves 200 landowners in the Texas Panhandle and initially includes approximately 988,000 ha in Roberts County, one of four counties involved in the project (Mesa Water, 2005). These four counties cover 6,125,000 ha, with 247,000 ha now in irrigation. The project sponsors hope to help meet Texas' water needs over the next 125-200 years by constructing an extensive pipeline from the source wells to various reservoirs associated with the Brazos River and using the river itself as a conduit, thus making conjunctive use of surface and groundwaters. Ultimate water purchasers include the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, San Antonio and other cities.

Such large diversions of groundwater over long distances in Texas are not without controversy. The concerns involve matters such as the privatization of water supplies (Knickerbocker, 2002); claims that the withdrawals may greatly exceed recharge (Eaton and Caplan, 2003), leaving no water for the children and grandchildren of the local people (McKenzie, 2004) and the otherwise adverse effects on rural communities (Water and the Future of Rural Texas, 2001); the failure of these water marketing projects to take third party effects into account (Water and the Future of Rural Texas, 2001); the lack of a state groundwater policy (Water and the Future of Rural Texas, 2001) and water quality, wildlife and environmental issues when fresh groundwater is mixed with salty river water (Ostdick, 2004).

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