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Marfa Residents Protest City Water Sales

Trucks wait to be filled with water purchased from the City of Marfa (Sara Melancon/KRTS)

With reports of drilling activity approaching the Big Bend region, some residents of Marfa are concerned about the city's practice of selling its water supply in bulk, sometimes to drilling companies.

On Thursday, protesters parked and left their cars in front of city fire hydrants, hoping to block trucks from accessing the water supply.

Marfa resident Buck Johnston spearheaded the effort. She feels it's a short-sighted move to sell city water in bulk, especially in a drought-stricken desert region.

"Ask any rancher, and they'll tell you their wells are dropping and going dry," she says. "I don't really care what anyone's feelings are about fracking or oil exploration, my concern is water."

Marfa City Manager Jim Mustard says that bulk water sales are common in cities, and he considers it a "good use" of the resource.

According to Mustard, the companies buying water are paying $20 per 1000 gallons of water - five times the price of what private citizens pay. He claims the city's water sales have had no adverse effects on the water table.

"It's not any lower now than it was in the 50's when we started keeping the records," he says.

Mustard maintains the protests are illegal, but as of Thursday afternoon, the city had not taken action to tow or ticket the people involved, and it seemed likely similar protests would continue.

- Paige Phelps