Pickens discussed the potential for water marketing and inter-basin transfer during a water planning forum on the Campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock recently. He explained that he got into the water business to protect property, specifically the water under his Roberts County ranch.

“Two interests bought water fields near my ranch and I had the options of selling water or being drained,” Pickens said. “I put together a (coalition) with neighbors and we have 150,000 acres under our control. I have options on other property.

“I set about trying to sell 150,000 acre-feet of water. I’ve found some interest but not as much as I expected.”

He’s peddled water all over the state and has also discussed water marketing with Oklahoma and planned to talk to parties in New Mexico. He said moving water from the area could reduce supplies for irrigation by 10 percent. “I can sell down to 50 percent of the saturated thickness of the water table,” he said. “In 100 years, 50 percent of the water in four counties (adjacent to Roberts) would remain.”

Pickens explained that moving water from the Texas Panhandle, where the Ogalalla aquifer is less depleted, to areas of the state where demand is greater, would be an expensive proposition.

“Moving 200,000 acre-feet of water to north Texas, the Dallas/Fort Worth area, would require an initial investment of $1.2 billion (pipeline construction), or $775 per acre-foot per year. Amortizing the cost takes 30 years,” Pickens said.

Piping that much water to San Antonio takes an initial investment of $1.8 billion, $1,170 per acre-foot per year. El Paso, he said, is too far, requiring a $2.1 billion investment and $1,773 per acre-foot per year.

“Our first target is to keep water in the Panhandle or West Texas,” Pickens said. “We’ll offer water to areas where it’s located first,” he said, “if it’s needed. If not, we’ll go wherever we can find a buyer. Possibly, we could go to Lubbock, Midland and Big Spring and tie into the Colorado pipeline and then to Lamesa and on to San Antonio. I think there might be a market there.”

He said analysts have not yet developed costs to take water to Lubbock.

Pickens said water resources are vital to the state and “must be managed. Control is coming.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com