As we move into a time of unprecedented climate change, many are worried about where we’ll find enough food and energy to sustain nearly 10 billion people. Food and energy are big demands, yes, but few seem to realize that without an adequate supply of drinking water, neither will matter. Water is the new oil, and there are parts of the world that have already run dry.
In August, The Guardian reported that the town of Barnhart, Texas had completely run out of water after a fracking boom in the region sucked away every last drop of groundwater. Thanks to rampant fracking, 30 more Texas cities are teetering on the edge of a similar disaster.
Finding a way to protect our waterways so that every human can remain hydrated is a big enough task, but it’s being made exponentially more difficult by the natural gas industry.
A new report uses Marcellus Shale gas extraction operations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania as an example to show what fracking does to local fresh water supplies, and why expansion of the process in the more arid Western U.S. will be a death sentence for those states and the people and animals who live there.
The report, Water Resource Reporting and Water Footprint from Marcellus Shale Development in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, was authored by Evan Hansen, president of the environmental analysis firm Downstream Strategies; Dustin Mulvaney, assistant professor of Sustainable Energy Resources at San Jose State University; and Meghan Betcher, M.S., environmental scientist, Downstream Strategies.
Results of the investigation show that the massive volumes of water used by fracking operations, not to mention the toxic waste they create, are a cause for public concern.
5 Reasons Why Fracking Is a Death Sentence For Arid States
1. More than 90 percent of the water injected underground to frack gas wells never returns to the surface, meaning it is permanently removed from the water cycle. This could have huge repercussions in water-poor states.
2. More than 80 percent of West Virginia’s fracking water comes from rivers and streams. Reuse and recycling of flowback fluid makes up only 8 percent of recent water use in West Virginia and 14 percent in the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania, and is highly unlikely to be a solution to the water needs of the industry going forward.
3. As the industry expands, the volume of waste generated is also increasing rapidly. Between 2010 and 2011, it went up by 70 percent in Pennsylvania to reach more than 610 million gallons.
4. Water use per unit energy—often referred to as a blue water footprint—is higher for fracking than evaluated by prior research, even though this study employed a stricter definition of water use. While previous studies considered all water withdrawn per unit energy, this one only considered water that is permanently removed from the water cycle.
5. States have taken steps to gather information on water withdrawals, fluid injection and waste disposal, but reporting remains incomplete, operators sometimes provide erroneous data and the data itself is not always readily available to the public.
“It is clear from this report that fracking uses and will continue to use considerable water resources, despite industry claims to the contrary,” says Bruce Baizel director of Earthworks’ energy program, which helped develop the report. “This means we need stronger public oversight of fracking, and also a more robust debate on how much water we are willing to part with for the sake of fracking.”
Well, you can’t drink natural gas, or use it to water cattle or crops. You can however, create clean energy with resources other than fracked natural gas. So, the answer should be pretty easy, right?
Read the full report at http://bit.ly/MarcellusWaterUse [PDF]
Image via Thinkstock
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