New Mexico Land Boss Ends Sale of Fresh Water for Oil and Gas
The New Mexico State Land Office announced that it will be halting the practice of allowing fresh water to be pumped from state trust land and sold for use in oil and gas development.
The New Mexico State Land Office announced in December that it will be halting the practice of allowing fresh water to be pumped from state trust land and sold for use in oil and gas development.
Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard detailed the shift in policy in a letter to companies that hold easements that grant access to trust land for pumping fresh water. Under the change, existing easements will not be renewed once they expire and no new easements will be issued.
She pointed to the scarcity of fresh water resources in New Mexico, saying the policy is aimed at encouraging the industry to use recycled water or produced water, which is waste water that result from oil and gas operations.
The agency cited data reported by companies to FracFocus, a national registry, that indicated nearly 14.5 billion gallons of water were used for overall production in New Mexico in 2019, with recycled or produced water making up only a fraction of the total use.
According to the State Land Office, oil production on trust land in the Permian Basin is at an all-time high despite disruptions that resulted from a global price war earlier this year and the ongoing consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. That has resulted in the availability of more produced water.
Garcia Richard suggested that more intervention is needed from the state Legislature to address New Mexico’s water issues and that the policy change within her agency marks a small step to help preserve fresh water resources.
“Rather than looking at fresh water as a commodity for sale to the highest bidder, we should look at the advancements in water recycling and produced water as our way forward,” she said in a statement. “There is simply no reason for fresh water to be used for fracking.”