26 April 2013
W is for Water
That precious resource: water. When I was very young, I was married to a water engineer straight out of college, and I remember well the conversations about the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, that reservoir of life lying under a multi-state high plains region as pictured here:
There was much concern that the water levels were dropping by a few inches every year - today the depletion has increased to a few feet annually, and some community wells have simply run dry. In a time of extreme drought, there is little chance of the aquifer recharging. Knowing what we knew 30 years ago, how could this situation have become so dire?
That isn't the worst of the problem though. Energy companies are buying up water and mineral rights throughout the country, and are using precious water resources to engage in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a natural gas mining process that risks contaminating water supplies needed for agriculture as well as human consumption. Just last week on the way to the city, we noticed the first fracking rig in our area along the highway, and never was there a mention of the development in any local newspapers.
Of even more concern are the laws around fracking procedures. In 2005, the Clean Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress during George W. Bush's administration, and de-regulated injection wells to exclude contamination from hydraulic fracturing. This exclusion has been called the "Halliburton Loophole" after the company formerly led by former vice-president Richard Cheney. Halliburton is the world's largest provider of hydraulic fracturing services. Do you see an issue with this situation?
During President Obama's administration, fracking has become even more popular, in support of energy independence. However, the potential for natural gas exports has become the primary focus in the natural gas scenario. Here is a recent article at Salon.com about the upcoming boom in the fracking industry, and why environmentalists and local governments may find themselves at odds with large energy companies seeking to mine in any area with the slightest hint of resources. Even beautiful landmarks like Monterey Bay in California are at risk.
Is fracking coming to an area near you? Here's a map:
If you're in a drought or low water area, be afraid, be very afraid. Especially since you may not have a say in the future, depending on what state you live in. This article in The Atlantic covers a few more of the issues and offers even more maps.
If you're concerned about this issue, there are lots of anti-fracking groups popping up in major states. Here's a list to get you started. Better now than when your water supply is contaminated and undrinkable. There's so much of this activity starting up, where would we move to get clean water? This is not an issue that is going away by itself.
Save Colorado From Fracking