Battle Over Water in Pecos County

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February 16, 2010

CBS7 News

by Eddie Garcia


Over the past 50 years, Pecos County and businessman Clayton Williams have been fighting a war over water.

According to Williams, it boils down to one thing, property rights.

Williams told us, “This has a lot of water. 65 to 70 miles a foot deep every year. That’s called an acre foot.”

That translates to into an 1800 square mile aquifer, most of which is sitting right below his Pecos County property.

“We have 32 wells, that averages about 2,000 gallons per minute.” Williams explained.

That’s millions of gallons used to water his hay and alfalfa crops, steady work but no longer a cash cow.

"If you can't make money then you have to do something else." Williams tells us.

And Williams has a plan of grand proportions.

He says, "I visualize a 30 inch pipeline that would take most of the water, not all of the water, to more less a spot between Midland and Odessa and we'll divert it to whoever wants to buy it."

A plan embroiled in controversy. That same aquifer supplies water to Pecos County and the entire City of Fort Stockton just miles away. Many, from the top down, fear disastrous future consequences.

Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster says, "Without water, there is no Fort Stockton or Pecos County."

Williams says the fears are unwarranted.

Williams says, "You could pump it all the way down but it's still coming back from 1800 square miles, this is a renewable aquifer."

They're not just William's words though. He's hired a geological survey team to back his claims with science.

He explains, "Here's the water study that's been criticized but it's been done by very reputable people."

The thousand-page report done in July 2008 by The Thornhill Group out of Roundrock says the reservoir is recharged by rainfall in the Glass and Davis Mountains.

That water soaks into the ground and flows as an underground river directly under Williams land.

Simply put...

"We pump the water down, it fills back up. It's not that complicated.” according to Williams.

Williams has offered the report and incentives to the community to ease fears and sweeten the deal.

He says, "What would it do for Ft. Stockton? It will be $2.2 million a year in school taxes - pretty big, it will be $1.3 million in county taxes, 300 miscellaneous, they would share 10% of the profits from the pipeline."

Still Pecos County, Fort Stockton and the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District, which controls the water, have all put up roadblocks to the export of water...making Williams plan seem like a pipe-dream.

Williams says, "On this land I have the legal right to produce this water, it's already been fought through the courts, it is the law that this is private property if you capture the water you have the legal right to use it."

But now it's going back to the courts. Williams's company "Fort Stockton Holdings" has launched a federal lawsuit against the water district alleging discriminatory treatment. He's also suing Fort Stockton Mayor Rueben Falcon for slander...claiming he made false public statements.

The Mayor says he's not concerned about the attack and he's minding the business of the people and spends his free time getting out frustration in a different court.

Mayor Falcon says, "As Mayor of Fort Stockton I took an oath to serve the citizens of this city and they have told me do not let water get transported out of Fort Stockton."

Williams added, "I will fight for it and I will fight for it within the box of law because there are laws governing this."

The issue is reaching its boiling point

Judge Shuster told us, "I think both sides need to come to a table and put all their cards on the table."
The county, water district and city are joining forces and have a card up their sleeve. A major million-dollar water study of their own. The latest blow in what's become a full-fledged war over water - but a war Williams is convinced he'll win.

"They may have a lot to learn, is a kindly way to put it." Said Williams.

Tonight, we hear from community leaders in Pecos County in Fort Stockton and why they believe Williams’ plan to export water will leave them high and dry.