Drought-stricken California’s fracking operations used 70 mn gallons of water last year

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Energy companies in California used 70 million gallons of water for the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process to unearth oil and gas reserves, according to officials. The figure comes during the state’s increasingly urgent push to conserve water.

That amount is of water used is less than previously projected by
industry — which estimated fracking used about 100
million gallons of water per year. Nevertheless, water in
California is at premium. The state is entering its fourth year
of record drought, and a mandatory
water reduction plan
was announced last week by Governor
Jerry Brown. California may only have 12 months’ worth of water
left, as snowpack measurements for the year are set to hit record
lows. Yet fracking operations are not included in the
conservation efforts.

To unleash oil or natural gas from shale or other areas, the
fracking process requires blasting large volumes of highly
pressurized water, sand, and other chemicals into layers of rock.
Once used, toxic fracking wastewater is then either stored in
deep underground wells, disposed of in open pits for evaporation,
sprayed into waste fields, or used over again.

“Hydraulic fracturing uses a relatively small amount of water
– the equivalent of 514 households annually,”
Steven Bohlen,
the state oil and gas supervisor,
told Reuters
, which first reported the water usage figure.

Bohlen added that fracking uses more than fresh water, including
“produced” water that surfaces during the fracking
process that cannot be used for drinking or agricultural

Patrick Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Center for Biological
Diversity and Californians Against Fracking, said while the
state’s fracking water use may only equal 514 households, much of
that contaminated water can’t be used again, unlike most common
household water usage.

“It is water that most likely cannot be put back into the
water cycle,”
ThinkProgress. “It’s water that is by and large gone
for good.”

also reported
last week that environmentalist groups have
estimated that oil and gas developers in the state go through 2
million gallons of fresh water per day for oil production.

Fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination,
activity, exacerbation of drought
conditions, and a variety
of health concerns for humans
and the local

Oil and gas companies are under increasingly intense pressure
nationwide to respond over increased transparency of chemicals
used in the fracking process. As RT has reported, industry has
— often under
the cover
of official regulatory
— just what chemicals are involved in their toxic
injection fluids. Yet drillers insist the chemicals do not
endanger human health, contradicting findings
by scientists and environmentalists.

“What [oil and gas producers] have been doing, especially in
the [California’s agriculturally fertile] Central Valley, is
injecting this very contaminated, very salty — often containing
benzene — water into shallow aquifers and shallow water
Helen Slottje, of the Community Environmental
Defense Council, told RT.

“Water is not replaceable, we don’t have any alternative
sources for water. But we do have alternative sources for natural
gas and oil.”

In March
, disclosures in California revealed that a bevy of
toxic, cancer-linked chemicals in fracking wastewater are
routinely injected back into the ground.

, it was reported that California officials permitted
oil and gas companies to dispose of waste and other fluids into
aquifers containing drinking and irrigation water more than 2,500
times. Significantly, 46 percent of these permits were authorized
within the last four years – the same timeframe during which the
EPA warned California that regulators were not sufficiently
protecting underground water reserves in the drought-stricken

In October 2014, the
state found
that the oil and gas industry had illegally
injected about three billion gallons of fracking wastewater into
central California drinking water and farm irrigation aquifers.

READ MORE: Affluent Californians using far more
water amid severe drought – study

The executive
signed by Gov. Brown mandates cities and towns to
reduce water usage by 25 percent over the next nine months to
save approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water “or nearly
as much as is currently in Lake Oroville,”
the statement

The order also allows California to replace 50 million square
feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant
landscaping in partnership with local governments; direct the
creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to
replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient
models; require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other
large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and
prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable
water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used,
and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

READ MORE: More than 1 million Californians lack access to
clean water – study

Alas, fracking operations are exempt from the reduction plan.

“Governor Brown is forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder
the burden of the drought by cutting their personal water use
while giving the oil industry a continuing license to break the
law and poison our water,
” Zack Malitz, of the environmental
activism group Credo,
told Reuters
last week.

“Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest
uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the
he added.

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