PLAINVIEW, Texas — About a half million West Texans in one of the state's historically driest areas now will have water into the next century following a deal signed Thursday between billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens and a regional water supplier.
Pickens and his Mesa Water Inc. sold the water rights beneath 211,000 acres for $103 million. The Panhandle and South Plains areas are suffering through their worst drought in decades; almost all of them are in the worst stage of dryness.
The purchase gives the West Texas-based Canadian River Municipal Water Authority water rights for about 443,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle, almost all of it in Roberts County. That should be enough to provide water beyond 2100 for industrial and municipal use in the 11 communities it serves.
4 trillion gallons
The pact involves about 4 trillion gallons of water.
“It's the right deal, I'm confident of that,” Pickens told the communities' representatives at a signing ceremony in Plainview. “The water is where it should be and everything is peace and quiet.”
Pickens acquired the water rights for an undisclosed price earlier this decade through his Dallas-based Mesa Water with hopes of selling it to thirsty cities elsewhere in the state. He couldn't find a buyer and decided in April to sell to the nearby supplier.
Lake Meredith, the Canadian River authority's main source of water for many years, is at an historic low. Pickens called it “near gone.”
The water is from the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest, and lies beneath land in Roberts County, where Pickens owns a ranch.
Pickens, 83, compared the deal to buying and selling a motor boat: a person is generally thrilled when the boat is purchased and happier still when it's sold, he said.
It's been a “long journey” since Mesa battled for pumping permits from the region's groundwater conservation district, Pickens said.
“It all turned out right,” he said after the contract was signed. “And don't ever forget I live here.”
Pickens said a pipeline to the Dallas area would have cost $3 billion dollars. Talks with Dallas were dependent on the area's drought situation.