Muskingum Watershed Conservancy puts brakes on sale of its water to drillers

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — There will be no further sales of water from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District reservoirs to the oil and gas industry until the conservancy district can update its water supply policy.

The new policy will take into account the information reported from an independent water availability study presently under way.

Conservancy officials said June 7 the decision is based on concerns expressed by environmental organizations and groups, the general public and the staff.

The conservancy district must “slow down the process of managing water sales requests,” said John M. Hoopingarner, conservancy district executive director/secretary.

Water survey

Earlier this year, the MWCD board of directors approved an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey to perform a water availability study for three MWCD reservoirs: Atwood, Clendening and Leesville.

The data is expected to be available later this year.

“We believe strongly that it is in the best interest of the public we serve and the conservancy district to not entertain any water supply requests until this study has been completed and the MWCD has had an opportunity to update its water supply policy for review, public discussion and consideration of the MWCD board of directors,” Hoopingarner said.

One withdrawal in works

The board has approved one water supply agreement for 11 million gallons of water from Clendening Lake in Harrison County to be sold to Gulfport Energy Co.

A temporary pipeline is being used to draw water from the lake for drilling operations at a Gulfport well site nearby.

Approximately a dozen other inquiries have been received by the MWCD for water sales from several other MWCD reservoirs, but none of those will be considered until after further studies and the updated MWCD policy are completed, Hoopingarner said.

Other water users

Currently, along with the capped sales agreement for water at Clendening Reservoir, three other long-term contracts for water supply from conservancy reservoirs are in place. They are with the Village of Cadiz in Harrison County for water from Tappan Lake for the village’s municipal water supply; with the City of Cambridge in Guernsey County for an emergency backup supply of water from Seneca Lake for its municipal supply (which has been in place for many years and has not ever involved water withdrawals); and with Carroll County for water from Atwood Lake for the county’s operation of Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center.

Theirs to sell

The MWCD has legal authority, according to state law, to sell water from its reservoirs and the use of water for beneficial public uses including consumptive, domestic and industrial uses.

The district was also created with a second primary purpose: to reduce the effects of flooding in the Muskingum River Watershed and the eventual construction of the 16 reservoirs and dams.

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