Tall City Weighing Water Options

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - The vast majority of Midland's water comes from the Colorado River Municipal Water District. A small portion of the water comes from the Paul Davis Well Field which the city has a long-term lease on and some of that is sold to oil and gas companies.

When it comes to water, the top priority for Tall City officials is drinkable water for all Midlanders.

A drought contingency plan will be voted on by the City Council on Tuesday, stepping up enforcement amidst new delivery restrictions from the Colorado River Municipal Water District.

"They're telling us another 10%, which looks like it will be around 22 million gallons a day for Midland, down from about 24.7 million gallons a day," Stuart Purvis, Midland Director of Utilities, said. "If the council passes the drought plan, it will be enforced."

That means water restrictions go from voluntary to mandatory.

City officials also told NewsWest 9 that Midland is set to consume between 900 million to one billion gallons of water in June, doubling monthly totals in the Winter.

One of the ways officials are looking to conserve is water coming from the Paul Davis Well Field, part of which they sell to oil companies, but they may have to stop doing that in order to save.

"We can produce more than we can blend, so over the years we've sold the excess to the oil field, that may or may not continue," Purvis said. "It's a raw, non-potable type water."

Officials are considering using the water they sell to oil companies, blending and cleaning it, and bringing in an extra seven million gallons a day to residents.

"If we can monitor that closer, get better data so we know what to blend, and when to blend it so we can use more of it, then we won't provide it to the oilfield," Purvis said. "Our first responsibility is to the residents of Midland, that's why all those fields are put in."

The option will be used depending on the need.

Local oil experts said they need water to continue growth and that the shortage has hit them hard too.

"In the oil and gas industry, you have to have water to drill with and you have to have water to fracture with and so it's going to become a problem," Petroleum Consultant, Morris Burns, said.

For other water options, oil companies could reach out to landowners.

"Buy from the landowner," Burns said. "If he's got surface water, stock tanks, lakes, or things like that, we can buy water from them. Another option is to drill a water well, use the water until we're through with our drilling or fracturing and then give the wells to the landowner and this has been done many times."

NewsWest 9 was told companies could also drill for the salt water underground beneath our feet and recycle it for their own use.

Starting Tuesday, with the fate of the drought plan, the Tall City will see which option to take.

NewsWest 9 contacted the City of Odessa for their own water relations to oil companies. Officials told us they're not even considering that.