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New investigation: fracking is increasing competition for water and its price in counties with drought

Amy Mall

Posted June 19, 2013 in Health and the Environment

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A new investigation by AP has found that the vast majority of counties where fracking is occurring in seven states are also suffering from drought. The AP found that fracking is presenting new strains on water supplies in some drought-stricken areas of the country. Among the findings:

Colorado: Farmers are used to paying up to $100 for an acre-foot for water, but energy companies are paying some cities $1,200 to $2,900 per acre-foot.

Texas: some cotton farmers are scaling back production due to drought, and local water officials said "drillers are contributing to a drop in the water table in several areas."

California: oil and gas companies want to drill new wells amid avocado and lemon groves, where irrigation comes from an already overdrawn aquifer or expensive water piped in from the distant Sierra Nevada mountains.

There is also a new report from the Carlsbad Current-Argus about water conditions in New Mexico. The report found that in Lakewood, north of Carlsbad, more than a dozen water well owners are seeking compensation from the state after their wells dried up. Other water well owners in the area have been "selling their water commercially and have over-pumped with no recharge in the aquifer."

The president of the Otis Mutual Domestic Water said that "the current trend to sell water to the oil and gas industry is causing its water managers some concern."

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Comments

Michael BerndtsonJun 19 2013 12:54 PM

Here's an interesting presentation titled: "Managed Aquifer Recharge for the Central Rio Grande Basin" (aquifer system discussed in your post). The presentation is about engineered recharge, since mother nature can't keep up with man. So it's slightly off topic, but full of basic information on the aquifer system in New Mexico. The slide that really grabbed me was a 1984 sales pitch for Albuquerque (by developers of course) that "Albuquerque, New Mexico sits right next to and above an underground lake the size of Lake Superior."

http://www.nwri-usa.org/pdfs/MoorePresentationFinal.pdf

Anyway, what is not good is Amy's second to last paragraph:

"...more than a dozen water well owners are seeking compensation from the state after their wells dried up. Other water well owners in the area have been "selling their water commercially and have over-pumped with no recharge in the aquifer."

New Mexico was close to mining the aquifer even before fracking came around. Not good for water drinkers since natural recharge of this aquifer is way less than what humans pull out.

Gerald QuindryJun 20 2013 08:27 AM

Let's take a closer look at the Colorado example cited in the AP story. A farmer was able to purchase water for $9 to $100 per Acre-Foot but can no longer do so. (An A-F of water is 326,000 gallons, so that's a LOT of water for not much money.) The farmer grows corn in his irrigated field. Corn can be (and is) grown much more efficiently in Iowa, Illinois, and many other states in non-irrigated fields. There is no shortage of corn, except that produced by the subsidized use of this agricultural crop for ethanol production. A different consumer wishes to purchase recycled, treated sewer water for $2,400 per A-F. The use of recycled sewage to irrigate food crops, or for groundwater recharge of potential drinking water resources, is prohibited in many areas, heavily regulated in others.

So, what is the problem? Where is the best use of that recycled wastewater? What is its true value? What is the point you are trying to make?

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