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Intrepid Potash loses Pecos River access after Carlsbad legal battle

Intrepid Potash lost almost all its rights to Pecos River water this week per a ruling from the Fifth Judicial District Court.

Intrepid, one of two major potash-producing companies in the Carlsbad area was locked in legal battle for about two years over its Pecos River water rights with the Carlsbad Irrigation District (CID) and Otis Mutual Domestic Water Consumers and Sewage Works Associations, which represent rural water users in southern Eddy County.

Potash is an ore used in a range of products from makeup to gunpowder; today it is chiefly used as fertilizer.

More:Intrepid Potash defends its Pecos River water rights during trial

The sun sets on Dec. 14, 2019 on the Pecos River in Carlsbad, NM.

Potash helped boost Carlsbad economic growth

Carlsbad was one of the first places in the North American where the mineral was found, and it defined the city’s economic growth in the decades before oil and gas production came to the region.

But as demand for potash shrunk in recent years and it was discovered and mined elsewhere, Intrepid sought to respond to the market shifts by diversifying its operations to include the sale of water to oil and gas companies for use in hydraulic fracturing.

The company recently claimed about 35,000 acre feet (AF) of water rights on the Pecos River for non-consumptive use and about 19,000 AF for consumption for both its potash refining operations and water sales to the oil and gas industry.

Intrepid Potash trial:Trial on Intrepid Potash’s Pecos River water rights concludes, parties await verdict

Opponents to Intrepid’s claim who initiated the litigation argued that amount of water, if taken by the company could lead to severe restrictions on other local water users such as for agriculture, and that Intrepid and its predecessors had previously forfeited the water rights completely.

Fifth Judicial District Judge James Wechsler in Chaves County sided with the CID and Otis Water Associations, finding Intrepid only had claim to about 150 AF for salt processing.