Is Jal going to dry up and blow away in the next few years?
At a Jal City Council meeting March 27, Mayor Cheryl Chance said she was told just such a scenerio could happen.
“Somebody told me from the state engineer’s office that we were soon not going to have any water in the aquifer because of Midland,” Chance said following a discussion about a state Oil Conservation Division report that showed a salt water disposal well owned by Oilfield Water Logistics about one mile southwest of Jal could contaminate future drinking water supplies. “I was told it came from the top person,” Chance added. “It is kind of scary when someone tells you their boss said we are going to be out of water.”
Chance wouldn’t say who gave her the information when questioned by Jal City Manager Bob Gallagher, but Gallagher said the statement — by whoever it was — is false.
“That is an asinine statement,” Gallagher said at the meeting. “If that is the case and they have not contacted the city or any ranchers …”
So is Jal going to run out of water in the next few years? According to a recent study of the town’s water supply conducted by Albuquerque firm Souder, Miller and Associates, Jal’s current aquifer is predicted to last the community 20-30 more years even with the draw-down by Midland, which drilled several wells across the state line in Texas and for the past two years has been pulling as much as 10 million gallons a day of water from the aquifer.
State Engineer Tom Blaine told the News-Sun he doesn’t know where the information Chance received came from, but it was not his office.
“We would never make a statement like that,” Blaine said. “If Jal is going to run out of water in two-three years, I would be down there personally talking to the city council and trying to figure out ways we could work through it. We have not heard any of those figures and we are the keepers of the data.”
Blaine said Andy Morley, district 2 manager for the office, which covers Roswell and the Lea County areas, did speak with the mayor prior to the meeting and she may have misinterpreted information he had provided her.
“I did have an opportunity to speak with her earlier that week,” Morley said. “I am working with hydrology as we speak to try and find out what the lifespan of the Jal aquifer is. As far as the mayor’s concern, it is a good concern. Anyone in that area should be concerned. We are extracting water at a greater rate than the recharge. As far as predicting it will be depleted in a two-year period, we don’t know that.”
He said the state office looks out at time frames around 2045 and tries to base water consumption projections going forward off current data taken from monitoring wells in the area.
“I don’t know anybody can project the deadline or life expectancy of the aquifer,” he said. “We have a good idea that as things continue to deplete in this area what draw downs could be.”
Is a draw-down happening? According to data take from the Advisory Committee on Water Information website, a Texas Water Development Board well located across the state line in Winkler County near the site of the Midland water wells shows that water levels have fallen sharply since early 2015. Midland began pumping water from the basin in December 2014.
On Feb. 17, 2015 the well’s depth to water from the surface was 138 feet. A measurement taken Feb. 7 of this year shows the depth to water had dropped to 149 feet.
Data taken from the U.S. Geological Survey website shows one of their monitoring wells in the area of Jal’s water wells has also seen a drop. That well came in at 282 feet to water in July 2015. In July 2016 the water level had dropped to 294 feet. That is the last year of data available for the well.
Jal’s long-term water future remains uncertain and as the community looks to future water sources such as the Capitan Reef aquifer — a non-potable water source that could potentially be made into drinking water in the future — protecting future supplies from contamination will likely be a major concern.