New water use regulations for a 16-county region of the High Plains are of such monumental importance to the region’s economy that they should not be rushed to a hasty adoption, David Gibson, executive vice president of the Corn Producers Association of Texas, said Friday from the  CPAT Lubbock headquarters.

“Water use determines the productivity of agriculture, which is the number one driver of the economy of Lubbock and the surrounding region,” Gibson said. “The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District is not under a specific deadline to adopt new regulations, so it’s vital that they take the time to do it right.”

Draft regulations to place new restrictions on water use, written for implementation in May, were made available to the public for the first time on Feb. 25 with a deadline for public comments of April 1.

“After meeting with more than 400 agricultural producers in four town hall meetings this week, it’s clear there is a tremendous amount of concern over provisions in the draft that are vague and confusing, as well as uncertainty about the impact this will have on the economy,” Gibson said. “There are many, many questions that need answers.”

The proposed water restrictions would dramatically affect income, land values, loan repayments, business expenditures and local tax revenues in ways that could reverberate through the entire economy of the South Plains, he said.

“In each one of our meetings this week, people wanted to know if any economic studies had been done on the impact of the draft,” Gibson said. “We know the district has had economic impact studies done by economists at Texas Tech University and that information should be released to the news media and the public before the district holds its public meetings beginning March 23.”

“The main thing that came out of our meetings with producers this week was a desire to work with the members of the district’s board to find ways to meet future water conservation goals without stifling the region’s economic growth.”

The district has scheduled public meetings on the draft regulations on March 23 in Hereford and Littlefield, on March 24 in Dimmitt and Lubbock and March 25 in Plainview.