State engineer pauses groundwater permits

The Albuquerque Journal published “State engineer pauses groundwater permits” in its April 4, 2021 issue, addressing oil and gas use of fresh water in southeastern New Mexico. Following are excerpts of the article plus additional related information. State Engineer John D’Antonio has restricted new groundwater permits in three basins of far southeastern New Mexico to study the impact of more wells on regional aquifers.

More than 80 commercial groundwater applications have been filed with the Office of the State Engineer’s Roswell District in the past three years. However, about 60 of those applications are pending because of protests and OSE hearing proceedings.

The office has permitted a total of 1,500 acre-feet, or 488 million gallons, of groundwater in the affected basins since 2019.  But the pending permits seek a total of 23,000 acre-feet per year, or about 7.5 billion gallons.

“This really affects all applications for commercial wells, but most for the Roswell District Office have been for frack water,” D’Antonio said. “The main concern down there is how this could affect the city of Jal’s drinking water.” 

Jal protested a groundwater pumping application last year by Intrepid Potash and NGL Energy Partners.

To address the unsustainable use of fresh water for fracking, among other related concerns, SB86 Use of Water in Oil and Gas Operations was introduced in the 2021 State Legislative session but was unfortunately tabled and defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The temporary constraints by the State Engineer cover new commercial appropriations in about 2,000 square miles of the Lea, Capitan and Carlsbad underground water basins. The order does not apply to new domestic wells, livestock wells, water right transfers within the basins, or drilling into certain deep brackish aquifers. Click here to view the entire Albuquerque Journal article.