New Mexico and Texas may be making nice about produced-water recycling and reuse rules. (See Federal Regulators Agree to Joint Study of Produced Water in New Mexico feature.) Not so much when it comes to aquifer water.
On one side of the border, you have the high desert of New Mexico, which has strict regulations on drilling new wells. Companies are resorting to piping water from the Pecos Valley Aquifer the state shares with Texas.
Fracing needs water to access the oil. New Mexico and Texas have different laws, making it easier to pump groundwater through pipes laid across state lines to New Mexico where it is needed. New Mexico officials are worried the aquifer will be sucked dry on the Texas side.
Aubrey Dunn, the New Mexico state land commissioner, doesn’t mince words. He says Texas landowners are stealing the water. They’re circumventing state law, he asserts, by serving oil wells in New Mexico with groundwater extracted in Texas.
New Mexico law has a priority water-rights system for groundwater. Older wells get first dibs on it. Newbies like oil-exploration companies have to get a permit to access groundwater. If water is scarce, they can forget the permit.
The groundwater going to oil wells in New Mexico comes from nearby Loving County, Texas. Property owners there are selling water to be piped across the border for drilling in New Mexico.