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Culberson County Groundwater Conservation District Proposes Expanded Boundary

Over 2,000 square miles of rural Culberson County currently lie outside the region's groundwater management boundaries. (Courtesy of Culberson County Groundwater Conservation District)

By Sally Beauvais

Oil and gas development is leading to an increase in groundwater usage across West Texas. And in northeast Culberson County, over 2,000 square miles of rural land lie outside of the region's groundwater conservation district.

That's why the group is proposing to expand its jurisdiction -- and meter water pumping across the entire county.

According to General Manager Summer Webb, in the past, groundwater usage in the area has been primarily for domestic and agricultural purposes. And while increased oil and gas activity has led the state to issue more water well permits locally, the total amount being pumped in the northeastern half of the county is going unmonitored.

"Right now without a groundwater district being in that area, there isn't the type of record keeping that a district would normally do," says Webb.

Expanding the Culberson County Groundwater Conservation District's boundary to include the entire county would allow the district to better monitor local aquifers, and study any potential impacts that increased pumping may be having on their health.

"Is the aquifer declining? Is it staying roughly the same?" asks Webb. "Those are the kinds of things that we don’t know right now that we would like to understand."

The conservation district will work with state lawmakers to bring the boundary change proposal to the 2019 Legislative Session.

Sally Beauvais is a reporter at Marfa Public Radio.