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As parts of U.S. experience drought, old wells are spewing water no one is plugging

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Posted at 2:15 PM, Jul 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-05 17:51:52-04

IMPERIAL, Texas – Water has never been more valuable. Parts of the west are dealing with record droughts. The Great Salt Lake is reaching record low levels.

But in parts of Texas, an area struggling with water in its own right, water is spewing uncontrollably as a result of old, unplugged irrigation wells.

A WATER EXPERT'S TAKE

Meet Gil Van Deventer.

Van Deventer is a hydrogeologist, he studies water and where it comes from and has been working with local water departments since the early 1980s.

“If you know a good plumber, send him out here we got a leak,” Van Deventer said with a smile as he samples water from wells.

So much water is coming out of these wells, actual new lakes are forming.

“All water in West Texas is precious,” Van Deventer said.

Wildlife is actually migrating to this part of Texas from the Gulf Coast, which is nine hours away.

WATER NEEDS TREATMENT

While water is the source of life, in many cases if it’s left untreated it can cause more harm than good.

“Alright, geeze,” Van Deventer says as he pauses the interview.

His monitoring alarm is going off on his belt.

The water coming out of the wells is perfectly drinkable if it’s treated, but because it isn’t, it’s causing problems.

The air is unhealthy because the water is emitting sulfate gas and Van Deventer’s alarm has picked it up.

“Because of the wind out here we aren’t at risk, it’s okay,” Van Deventer says.

Not everything is so lucky.

In other areas, native vegetation is being destroyed because the roots of plants can’t handle what is in the water.

Van Deventer worries if this continues, healthy drinking water in the area will be threatened.

“If it does that, it’s determined to be an environmental disaster,” Van Deventer said.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW

Van Deventer is hoping government assistance in the new infrastructure deal could make it to West Texas.

The bipartisan deal currently making its way through Congress includes $21 billion for environmental remediation and $55 billion for water infrastructure.

The hydrogeologist stresses fixing these wells needs to be done right.

Van Deventer says a couple of years ago a sinkhole was formed when someone attempted to fix a well.

“It’s actually still sinking. Last I heard it was a half-inch to a quarter of an inch a month,” Van Deventer said.