Gabriel Collins, “Hindering oilfield water imports from Texas would harm NM,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, 6 August 2018.
New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is no stranger to fights with Texas over cross-border resource extraction and transport. See, for instance, the summer 2017 “dirt bandit” episode in which his office sought payment from Hudspeth County for dirt, sand and gravel dug up by a crew maintaining the roadway along the state line near Dell City. But the commissioner’s latest conflict with the Lone Star State — over the oilfield water trade — potentially impacts billions of dollars in annual oilfield activity and could imperil New Mexico’s budgetary health.
In a June interview with the Texas Tribune, Dunn fired a broadside, stating that “Texas is stealing New Mexico’s water. … If you put a whole bunch of straws in Texas and you don’t have any straws in New Mexico, you’re sucking all the water from under New Mexico out in Texas and then selling it back to New Mexico.” But are cross-border water sales really “theft” and do they actually harm New Mexican state interests? Established federal law on cross-border groundwater transfers and a substantial body of economic data both suggest the answer is a clear “no.”
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