Texas Will Run Out of Water Before It Runs Out of Oil

It has been said that oil and water don't mix, but here in Texas the two seem to go hand in hand. In fact the new form of drilling for crude oil, hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, actually mixes water with certain chemicals to extract oil from hard-to-penetrate rocks. The practice is commonly used in Texas, although recently banned in Dallas. The two main areas of growth for this procedure are in the West Texas Permian Basin and South Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale.

While the procedure remains controversial, one thing is certain, Texas oil production is a at the highest rate it has ever been in recorded history. This means a lot of things, for Texas and for the United States, but one thing is that the Texas state budget is expected to have at least a couple of billion dollars more than anticipated for the 2015 Legislative Session, when lawmakers will write the next budget for the state.

This economic growth was anticipated to a degree but no one expected it to increase to the level of growth that we have seen in Texas. Despite this knowledge, lawmakers were still reluctant last session to make any kind of real spending decisions on water or road infrastructure in Texas; two of the most basic functions of government spending, and both vital to any economic interest in the state of Texas. 

The Texas Tribune reported earlier this month that the surplus in the Texas budget is expected to be bigger than expected and:

"Under that scenario, the Rainy Day Fund will have a balance of $8.1 billion by the fall of 2015. Dale Craymer, president of the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, said Combs' projections are still "very conservative" considering the economic activity coming from the oil and gas industry in South and West Texas in recent months."

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

"The International Energy Agency predicts that the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer by 2015. America has already become the largest producer of natural gas. In October, the U.S. started producing more oil than it imports for the first time since 1995."

The problem is, of course, water. The fracking process actually requires the use of millions of gallons of water a year. While it is common for groundwater to be valuable, with the economic oil boom it might actually be just as, if not more valuable than oil in a few years. If draught conditions worsen and lawmakers don't find real solutions, Texas could be in quite a pickle down the road, especially after the oil boom subsides and all Texas is left with is a hefty water bill with no real long term solutions.

As the San-Antonio Express News reported:

"The oil and gas boom is requiring more water than we have," said Hugh Fitzsimons, a Dimmit County rancher and a director of the Wintergarden Groundwater Conservation District. "Period."

It is time for Texas lawmakers to invest in water while Texas can afford to. If not all Texans: farmers, ranchers, and their agriculture and livestock, will be the real losers of this oil boom.  

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