ROSWELL AND CARLSBAD — At one end of Pauline and Joe Ponce’s spacious dining room in Roswell lies a cabinet crowded with photographs and mementos of their son, Michael. An old wrestling match program rests amid snapshots of Michael with his daughter, his parents, his wife. Pauline lingers beside an image of Michael holding his then one-and-a-half-year-old son, captured in December 2017. “That was taken only two months before Michael died,” she said. On the morning of Feb.
When Dee George was about 7 years old, his family moved to the outskirts of Carlsbad, New Mexico, where they bought an acre of land, set up a mobile home and planted mulberry trees. They had a clear view of the sunset, and birds flocked to the trees. George, now 53, still lives here with his wife, Penny Aucoin, and daughter Skyler. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission. Oil and gas development has existed for years in the Permian Basin, which stretches from southeastern New Mexico into Texas.
This story was reported in partnership with the Jal Record, a weekly newspaper based in southeastern New Mexico. JAL—Like many areas in New Mexico, water is in short supply in this southeastern oil patch town of 2,500 people. In the past few years, city officials have tried to address the matter by limiting water use, including barring businesses from buying city water for industrial use in the summer of 2013. But between 2012 and 2014, the city gave one ranch an unusual perk—a more than $1 million discount on its water bills. On top of this, Jal continued to sell industrial water to Beckham Ranch, Inc. for six months after the ban went into effect.