Frackers in the region pay an average 50 to 75 cents for a barrel of water, according to Bluefield Research, a water advisory firm. That amounts to more than $200,000 a well. Supplying water for fracking in the Permian is a roughly $1.2 billion industry annually, and including transportation and other costs, water spending for fracking there will surge to as much as $54 billion over the next decade, the firm said.
By the 1980s, Mr. Williams had amassed about 18,000 acres above a number of aquifers, deep deposits trapped in a natural underground dam some scientists believe an asteroid impact formed millions of years ago. The aquifers are valuable because they fill every winter from nearby mountains. The Williamses are Texas’ largest private water owners, some hydrogeologists estimate.