Texas is facing the driest eight-month period in its recorded history, a drought so bad that Texans are praying for hurricanes to get rain. But as fields dry up and the state’s reservoirs run dry, “plastic-lined pits holding millions of gallons of blue-green water are tucked away in fields chock-full of withering mesquite trees.”
The much-needed water, it turns out, is being pumped out of underground aquifers by oil companies that are using it for hydraulic fracking.
Not only does fracking come with potentially huge air pollution costs, it consumes billions of gallons of water each year, much of which cannot be recovered and reused for more imminent needs:
It can take millions of gallons of fluid to hydraulically fracture, or “frack,” a single well. Only about 20 percent to 25 percent on average of the water is recovered, while the rest disappears underground, never to be seen again.
The Texas Water Development Board estimates the total amount of water used for fracking statewide in 2010 was 13.5 billion gallons. That’s likely to more than double by 2020, and decline gradually each decade after that until dropping back down to current levels between 2050 and 2060.
“We’re using scarce resources to get scarce resources,” said John Christmann, Permian Region vice president for Apache Corp., a Houston-based oil and gas company that operates in almost every West Texas county.
Since October, parts of Texas have received as little as a tenth-of-an-inch of rain, forcing water restrictions on residents and leaving the ground dry and barren, resulting in massive wildfires that now cover large swaths of the state. The water shortage has gotten so bad that even Gov. Rick Perry (R), a staunch protector of the state’s oil industry, recently signed legislation forcing companies to disclose how much water they use in fracking operations.
Instead of using the plentiful amounts of non-potable water Texas has beneath its surface, these companies have decided to deprive the state of a valuable resource in a time of need. And for Texas, the problem is two-fold: not only is it losing its water, it’s losing it to companies who use a process that may be so destructive and dirty, not even coal mining compares.