Midland's New Water District Stirs Controversy

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - A brewing battle over one of our most valuable resources hit the table at Monday's Midland Commissioners Court meeting. Oilman Clayton Williams wants to sell water from his property in Pecos County to Midland County, but Ft. Stockton officials say that will leave them parched.

On Monday morning, the Midland County Commissioners said yes to creating the Midland County Fresh Water Supply District allowing them to build an industrial park near the airport - bringing water into the community.

"In essence change the use of the water from agricultural to allow it to be taken outside the county for other purposes," Robert Rendall, Attorney for Ft. Stockton Holdings and Clayton Williams said.

But the controversy centers around Clayton Williams Energy. He owns about 18,000 acres in Pecos County and plans to sell millions of gallons of water from his property to Midland.

"We're concerned this is not just a business opportunity, but it is a business opportunity that is going to have repercussions on 8,000 people that live in Ft. Stockton or more," Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster, said.

"I think Clayton Williams sees a need to make a change in the direction we're going and the water his company owns is primarily being used for agricultural purposes," Rendall said. "He sees there is a better use for that in the future."

Ft. Stockton and Pecos County officials aren't buying it. They claim that water supply is vital to their city and county. By pumping it away to Midland, their ranches will be left dry.

"The bottom line on this is we're trying to look out for what's best in our future because we want some controls that it doesn't suck our water tables to where we can't live without water," Judge Shuster said.

Clayton Williams funded a water study and executives tell NewsWest 9, taking that water won't hurt Pecos County.

"This is a large renewable reservoir that has much more water in it that continually recharges out of the Davis mountains," Rendall said. "The portion Mr. Williams has access to is just a percentage of that water."

Ft. Stockton Mayor Falcon says they're not going down without a fight.

"If water starts being pumped out of Ft. Stockton and threatens our livelihood, we will use eminent domain and take over the water wells that are producing that water," Ft. Stockton Mayor Ruben Falcon said.

The Clayton Williams-owned "Ft. Stockton Holdings" is waiting on the approval of a permit to allow them to transport the water. If it's not approved company executives say they'll still develop Midland's new industrial park and seek out alternative water sources.