California Drought Emergency Sparks Call To Ban Fracking And Protect Water

CREDIT: AP/Damian Dovarganes

The ongoing California drought emergency has prompted state lawmaker Rep. Marc Levine (D) to push for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to limit the drilling process’ drain on natural resources. “We have to decide what our most precious commodity is — water or oil?,” Levine told Reuters. “This is the year to make the case that it’s water,”

Fracking heavily relies on groundwater by injecting a mixture of chemicals and water into rock formations to release oil and gas deposits. A recent Ceres report found that 96 percent of California fracking wells are located in the areas experiencing drought and high water stress.

Right now, most of California needs 15 to 36 inches of rain to bring an end to the brutal drought. The map below shows nearly the entire state in drought conditions, ranging from abnormally dry (yellow) to extreme (red) and exceptional drought (maroon):


The problem also tends to hit other states that are suffering severe drought, including Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. Fracking is controversial for how it affects water quality, too, and California lawmakers have called on Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking until there is more research on the health and environmental impacts of the practice.

Scientists link frequent and worsening droughts to climate change, and California’s longer dry spells over the past decade is one classic example.

At the federal level, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill that would provide emergency funding for drought relief. It is not concerned with fracking, but serves as a counterweight to the House of Representatives’ California aid bill that would manage to curtail environmental regulation and restoration efforts.