Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's Confirmed: Fracking is Sucking Up Most of the Water in Drought-Ravaged West

A frack well near a community in northern Colorado.

Well, as if we didn't know, it's now been confirmed the gas and oil frackers are not only ruining our precious water supply here in the mountain West but depleting it as well.  According to a report published today in the UK Guardian, "America's oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California,".

This is extremely bad news given how our water resources are already depleted from drought. Las Vegas, for example, barely has 300 days of water supply left from the Colorado River unless it drills another deep well to supplement the pitiful amount left in Lake Meade. This is why a new deep water drilling project has commenced.

In California the drought is so bad now that many communities are within 8 weeks or less of having to undergo water restriction and rationing. And yet the insane frackers, driven by a Neoliberal political matrix with no investment in people - only money - carries on, fouling existing water with pollutants and depleting the rest.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found

The report estimated that fracking those wells consumed 97 BILLION gallons of water, raising new and well justified concerns about the country's mad energy rush. It's as if neither the frackers or the political idiots that support them grasp that humans can live (albeit with difficulty) without gas or oil, but can't live without water. 

According to Mindy Lubber, President of the Ceres network, and quoted in the Guardian:

"Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country's most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,"

Lubber warned without tough new regulations, the industry water gobblers will be on a "collision course" with other water users, public and private.

Here in Colorado, the limited water rights are usually secured at auction, with farmers and others competing with the oil companies for our scarce supply. Generally, because the latter have vastly more money they can out bid all other stake holders at will  - hence the spread of fracking throughout the state, though we've been in a severe drought now for nearly three years.

Professor James Famiglietti, of the University of California -Irvine,  sees it as a "wake up call". According to him:
"We understand that as a country we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimize any damage."

I'd add that it is also time that we understand that water-intensive fracking operations ought to be banned in drought -afflicted states. Especially those which have experienced severe drought for more than two years. This ought to be plain old common sense, given that it can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts

 But  evidently commons sense is in short supply amongst the Neoliberal energy hucksters. (Recall, as I noted before, fracking amounts to "snake oil" - as from the recent book by Richard Heinberg. It is not going to solve or ameliorate our long term energy problems nor is it any panacea.)

To see the full story, go to:


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