New restrictions proposed for use of South Plains well water - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

New restrictions proposed for use of South Plains well water

By Christie Post - email | By James Clark - email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Proposed rules could put much stricter limits on landowners, farmers and municipalities who use well water. In 2005, state lawmakers mandated water conservation planning. Now, The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, the oldest and largest of its kind in Texas, has a "50 / 50" plan to preserve the Ogallala aquifer.

The idea is have 50 percent of the underground water supply still available in 50 years. This affects 16 West Texas counties and more than 60,000 wells. The district might forbid the drilling of new water wells in certain areas starting May 31st.  The proposed rules could be put in place as early as January 2012, which is subject to change.

"A lot of us have invested our money and our land into our irrigation and drip. And a lot of us have done that for our future," said Bernie Thiel, Sunburst Farms owner.

Right now, people with wells can use as much water as they want. But the district said that need to change in order to protect our future. They plan to keep water well spacing, but will add production limits.

"We produce billions of dollars of ag crops here in the West Texas area. So that could be very detrimental to the economy here," said Thiel.

With the proposed plan, wells would be metered and limited to pump no more than 15 inches of water per year, per acre.

"If we get some good rains at good times it could make a tremendous amount of difference.

Let's say you have an area of land. Half of it is an irrigated crop land the other half is pasture. You still get to claim 1.25 feet of the entire 640," said Jim Conkright, High Plains Water Conservation District.

Bernie Thiel said this will affect his 20 to 30 wells. And he said he hopes farmers like him can be compensated for restricting water.

"Can we make three and a half or four bales on fifteen inches? That's going to be the big question," said Thiel.

He questions if the restrictions will be different depending on the crop.

"What exactly he's growing. If he's growing cotton, wheat, grain, produce vegetables," said Thiel.

The plan also includes municipalities and would include the Bailey County well field that the City of Lubbock uses.

"We cannot favor any industry or any crop. We also don't favor municipal over agricultural," said Conkright.

The City of Lubbock said they've been expecting this plan and have prepared by establishing outdoor watering restrictions every year from April 1st through September 30th.

Some residents have also prepared to cut water by installing fake grass in their yards.

"We are very fortunate, we won't have to comply with them at all. With the artificial turf that we have there is no watering at all. So the restrictions don't apply," said Victor Moreno, City of Lubbock resident.

Even with the new restrictions most agree something needs to be done to preserve our water sources.

"We are going to have to meter our water. I don't think there is any other way we can do it, unless we find some way to replenish our aquifer here," said Thiel.  

There are public hearings on the proposed rules.  They run from March 23rd through the 25th in several South Plains cities.

More information on the proposed rules is posted at

  • March 23: 9 a.m.-Noon, Hereford ISD Banquet Room, 601 N. 25 Mile Avenue, Hereford, TX.
  • March 23: 3-6 p.m., Robert Dysart Room, Lamb County Rural Electric Cooperative, 2415 S. Phelps, Littlefield, TX.
  • March 24: 9 a.m.-Noon, Dimmitt Middle School Auditorium, 1505 Western Circle, Dimmitt, TX.
  • March 24: 3-6 p.m,, Plains Cotton Cooperative Association Board Room, 3301 E. 50th, Lubbock. (Entrance at southwest side of building).
  • March 25: 9 a.m.-Noon, Plainview Country Club and Conf. Center, 2902 W. 4th, Plainview, TX.

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