What’s the project?
While not part of the 2012 State Water Plan, there is a newly proposed water marketing plan by VV Water Company, based in Beeville, that could pump billions of gallons of water each year from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer in Val Verde County to supply fracking operations and thirsty communities in West Texas. VV Water Company claims there is an abundant source of groundwater at the mouth of the Devils River near Lake Amistad, enough to support more than 49 billion gallons per year for export.
VV Water Company’s plans to pump and pipe water away from Val Verde County could have potentially serious negative impacts on farmers and cities in the lower Rio Grande Valley, who rely on water from an already over-allocated Rio Grande, into which Lake Amistad flows. The proposal is to pump from a well field near Amistad and pipe the water north through Val Verde County to a parched West Texas and Permian Basin oil and gas operations. The pipeline would start in southern Val Verde County and could open up many other areas to groundwater pumping along its route. The pipeline is essentially a water highway, and just as land along new roads develops more quickly, pumping water becomes much more financially attractive once that infrastructure is in place.
The Edwards-Trinity Aquifer provides the source water for the Devils River, and according to the Devils River Conservancy, increased groundwater pumping “could have a significant negative impact on the Devils River and numerous other waterways and springs, many of which provide drinking and irrigation water to towns throughout the region.”
What’s at risk?
A good bit of land within the Devils River basin is protected through conservation easements and two State Natural Areas, but the watershed is primarily private property. The landscape is rugged, isolated and not easy to access; the river is pristine and wild and draws adventurous kayakers, canoers and fishermen with access through one of the State’s Natural Areas managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The riparian corridors of the Devils River provide an important migratory path for numerous birds and monarch butterflies. Further, the watershed provides habitat for rare and endangered species such as the Texas snowbell, Mexican white oak and black-capped vireo, an endangered songbird. Fed by numerous clear springs within the region's karst topography, the Devils River is one of the most ecologically healthy rivers in Texas.
What’s the alternative?
According to a study by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, the vast majority of frack water is not recycled for reuse in their operations. Instead, the wastewater is pumped into injection wells and mostly fresh water is used for drilling. Recycling frackwater and using brackish water for oil and gas drilling processes would cut the amount of new freshwater withdrawn for those activities. That could mean savings of at least 23 billion gallons per year in 2020.