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Wanted: More Ward County water

City of Odessa officials said they want to increase the amount of water that can be captured from the Ward County well field, even offering to pick up the tab for the project if needed.

Speaking at the quarterly Colorado River Municipal Water District board meeting, Odessa Mayor David Turner said he wanted to increase the amount of water the well fields could produce — currently a total of 45 million gallons a day at full capacity — to as much as 65 million gallons a day.

The Ward County well fields are two separate pipelines that bring in a mixture of both surface and groundwater and then moves that water to Odessa via two pipelines

Because the well fields are owned and operated by CRMWD, it would require a vote from the water district board to take on the project. Turner said the city would be willing to pay for the expansion. Currently, expanding the well fields is estimated to cost $38 million.

Turner proposed using the money from an agreement between the City of Odessa and Pioneer Natural Resources, a deal which will give the city about $100 million for selling wastewater from the Bob Derrington Water Reclamation Plant to the company for energy production use.

The money was originally budgeted to seek new water sources.

Turner told CRMWD General Manager John Grant he would try to have a proposal for the board next week, and Grant said the board could potentially reconvene in December to discuss the proposal.

“In the short term, we are doing fine on water,” Turner said. “But as we’ve seen in the past three or four years, things can change so fast.”

Odessa receives its city water from the three lakes owned by CRMWD, the O.H. Ivie Reservoir, the E.V. Spence Reservoir and Lake J.B. Thomas. Those three bodies of water are the primary providers because surface water can be lost to evaporation if not used.

The water wells are a backup in case of severe drought because ground water isn’t lost to evaporation, Grant said.

But Turner said the goal of increasing the well fields was not to start using the ground water all the time, but to have a larger reserve available in case the current drought becomes severe again.

While there is currently no limit on the amount of water issued to Odessa from CRMWD, the water district did limit deliveries in 2012 when the drought was at its height.

By having a larger reserve available, Turner said it would help lift a “dark cloud” over the city, adding that it would make them feel more comfortable about the continued growth from homes and businesses.

City officials have said the population in the city limits is about 140,000, and needs to secure additional backup water in the case of emergencies.

However, for water projection purposes, CRMWD uses numbers based on the 2010 U.S. Census and states the city’s population won’t be 120,000 until 2020. Population estimates, Grant said, is one of the factors for future water use.

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If the expansion project was to go through the water district, it would also have to be approved by representatives with Big Spring and Snyder, the other two member cities with CRMWD. All three cities would be responsible for paying for the project if it was facilitated by the water district.

However, Turner’s offering to pay was to show how serious Odessa officials are about the project.

“What we see in Odessa may not be a need in Big Spring or Snyder,” he said. “That’s why we’re bringing the money to the table and saying we’ll put our money where our mouth is.”

Odessa City Councilman Dean Combs also voiced his concerns about making the project happen sooner rather than later, saying that labor and material costs are known to increase over time.

“While we’re sitting here thinking we need three months, six months, that $38 million could grow into $45 million,” he said.

The move is not the first time the city has looked for additional water sources.

In 2013, Odessa failed to come to an agreement with the City of Fort Stockton when the city was looking for about 50 million gallons of water a day for 100 years from the Capitan Reef Aquifer.

However, both sides were unable to come to an agreement on certain aspects of the deal and both city councils tabled the agreement.

Grant said he would work with Odessa officials to have their concerns heard, and added that since the upgrades were made to the well fields in 2012, it has not been used. Still, he added, the city officials would be the ones who know best what is going on in their areas.

“This is really the first we’ve had any discussion with Odessa about it, it is something the district is willing to sit down and talk with the city about,” Grant said.

Contact Nathaniel Miller on twitter at @OAgovernment, on Facebook at OA Nathaniel Miller or call 432-333-7769

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