Dale Adams, the General Manager of the Wes-Tex Groundwater Conservation District, presented an informative program of water and conservation to the Sweetwater Kiwanis Club during their weekly, noontime meeting held at Broadway Baptist Church.
Within Nolan County, three aquifers are present: the Edwards-Trinity, the Blaine and the Dockum. Visuals were provided showing the placement of the three water sources and their proximity to cities within the county.
The main water source for the county is the Dockum, due in part to the fact that the water from the Edwards-Trinity proves difficult to extract. Additionally, not much activity is cited in the Blaine, which is used mostly north of the county.
While water levels are low in these sources--in addition to the ongoing drought, the city well fields have proved beneficial in keeping water for use in Sweetwater. Since 2010, Sweetwater has only received 40 inches of rain; the yearly average of rain for the town is 25 inches.
The combination of the drought and commercial usage has led to a major concern that West Texas cities are lacking water, and some are on pace to run out of water. Some estimates project that on a day with 100-degree heat and a 30 mile-per-hour wind, a lake can lose anywhere from six to 12 inches of water on a daily basis.
A drill log was also shown during the presentation. With the water source as the Dockum, oil fields will be using water in their "fracking" (fracturing) efforts as the Cline Shale oil development continues.
In the past, fracking could be done with about 1,000 gallons of water. Today's new methods in fracking, however, cite the usage of 900,000 to 1.5 million barrels to frack one well (one barrel is equal to 42 gallons).
In meeting with a representative from Halliburton, Adams was informed that one well can be fracked up to 50 times. Thus, anywhere from 37 million to 63 million gallons of water can be used.
Many industries are having water being shipped to their area through trucks, with some having 400 truckloads at their location. And based on the numbers presented, Adams stated that Nolan County does not have that much water to be used.
As the development continues, water will be a necessity for residential use while also required in commercial use. In some cities, brackish water is being used in order to maintain water in their respective areas.
In regards to brackish water and desalination, it costs $2,140 per acre-foot in order to clean the water and its process all the way until it reaches the user. An acre-foot is equal to 320,000 gallons of water.
In 2009, a model cited that the amount of water in the Dockum was at .96 million acre/feet. Four years later, unfortunately, the amount remaining is unknown, but the equation of a city plus farmers plus the oil field brings the amount of available water into question.
As a result, the expectation is that one day, people will turn their faucet on, only to find that no water is coming out. In discussing the authority over water usage, the Nolan County Water Board can only monitor water usage and issue well permits according to space and rules, and have no backing from the state government.
Several state officials have informed Adams that while there is a water problem, no solution has been reached while also noting that jobs are being created through the oil industry. When asked if recycled water could be a possibility for use, Adams shared that the industry would only use the option when enforced by the government.
According to a June 9 rain report, Oak Creek lake was 19 feet, 5 and 3/8 inches below the spillway and was 25.40% full. Lake Sweetwater was recorded at 20 feet, 8 and 1/8 inches below the spillway and 25.60% full.