Mesa Water Plan could avert shortages in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio or El Paso

Aug. 22, 2002
The Mesa Water Landowners Group has everything it needs to complete a project to supply 150,000 acre-feet per year of water to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio or El Paso -- except a buyer.

AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 22, 2002 -- Boone Pickens recently announced that the Mesa Water Landowners Group has everything it needs to complete a project to supply 150,000 acre-feet per year of water to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio or El Paso in time to avert shortages -- except a buyer.

In an appearance before the Texas Water Advisory Council at the State Capitol in Austin, Pickens presented documents indicating that Mesa has the backing to finance and construct the project in time to deliver groundwater from the Ogallala aquifer in the Texas Panhandle to any of the three regions in five to seven years. "No other plan that I am aware of can come close to this capability," he said.

Pickens exhibited reports from experts showing that the Panhandle water can be delivered to any of the three regions at costs competitive with their own water plans, under a structure that allows the buyer to exercise complete control over the production and delivery system.

"We are prepared to see that the buyer is completely protected by having both an assured supply and a fixed price for water throughout the term of the contract," he said.

Pickens explained that a special governmental entity would be formed to own and operate the production and distribution system and he displayed a hydrologist's report confirming a more-than-100-year supply of Ogallala groundwater. He also reported that the investment banking firm of J. P. Morgan is confident that tax-exempt financing for the venture would be available.

Citing projections by the Texas Water Development Board which show a doubling of populations in north central Texas, San Antonio and El Paso by 2050, Pickens said the three existing regional plans "are burdened with uncertainties. Common sense would seem to dictate serious consideration of our proposal of an assured supply at a competitive cost," he said. "This is low-hanging fruit for the purchasers."

The Mesa group was formed two-and-a-half years ago when Pickens and neighboring landowners joined together to find a buyer for groundwater underlying their property in the northeast section of the Texas Panhandle. The area's only two major existing water markets -- the Canadian River Water Authority (CRMWA) and the City of Amarillo -- had earlier purchased 43,000 and 72,000 adjoining acres of water rights respectively, and last December CRMWA began exporting this water in its nearly 35-year old pipeline as far as Lamesa 323 miles to the south.

"If we were to sell our water to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex," Pickens said, "the pipeline we envision would be only five miles longer."

The Mesa group describes its water as "stranded," because of the land's topography -- mostly rolling hills and canyons. Out of the 2.3 million acres in the four northeastern-most counties of the Panhandle, only about four percent is under irrigation. The water is also considered "surplus," since both CRMWA and Amarillo rejected it as not being needed in the Region A 50-year plan.

The hydrology report prepared for the Mesa group confirms that there are more than 81-million acre feet of groundwater underlying the four-county area. The rules of the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation Water District allow only 50 percent of the aquifer to be produced.

Pickens said that the Mesa Water project can be completed "without having to flood any land, or destroy any wildlife habitat."

He added that developing the four-county portion of the Ogallala is in "the best interests of Texas because it is a drought-proof, secure source of water that will last well into the future."

SOURCE: Mesa Water Landowners Group

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