In the past year, Hunt Building Corp.., an El Paso-based company, has bought more than 4,000 acres in the area around Dell City. Recently, Hunt released a report on the feasibility of building a treatment plan and pipeline from Dell City to El Paso at a cost of up to $300 million. The study indicates that the small town could provide 50,000 acre-feet of water to El Paso each year. This is approximately one-fifth of the city's needs.
However, that amount of water could take up nearly half of the water Dell City farmers now use to grow crops. If the plan goes forward, farmers will have to pull much of their land out of production, John Edmondson, Hunt's vice president for government and public relations, says.
While selling water to El Paso could bring a potentially large cash flow to some Dell City farmers - 1,000 acres could bring in $200,000 a year or more - there are some who say they are not willing to give up their way of life for the money.
Others worry about how the discontinuation of agriculture will affect the land. Gary Woodard, a professor of hydrology at the University of Arizona and an expert on sustainable water use in semiarid lands, says that turning regions of crop land back to the wild often brings unintended effects, such as a potential inability to grow native plants and dust problems.