Fracking has been shown to be responsible for the big increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma since 2008. It’s not the fracking itself that is to blame, but rather the process of injection toxic wastewater back into the ground. It sounds like so far, it’s not to the point where we’re looking at major structural damage and such, so is really more of an annoyance…but I wonder how the residents in those areas are coping? You can read the study here or at Salon.
With an increasing population tapping depleting aquifers, much of this country (and the world) is on an unsustainable path that is going to lead to water shortages at some point in our lifetimes. We will adapt, it’s what we’re good at, but we need to be aware of how water is being used in our lives to know what to change. I’ve seen a few topics in the news lately that might not be obvious water hogs.
The first is fracking, for which the debate seems to focus on threats to our water supply, caused by leaking fracking fluids which threatens our groundwater supplies. While that’s being debated endlessly, there’s another water issue being overlooked. That is, the water that is used by the fracking process. According to Frack Free Colorado, each well requires 2-8 million gallons of water to create, and may require additional water over its lifetime if it needs to be re-fracked.
Biofuel is talked about as one solution to our energy problems, providing both a local fuel source, and a lower carbon liquid fuel option. Well, notice that word, ‘liquid’? You guessed it, biofuel production uses large amounts of water. The world consumes about 32 billion barrels of oil per year…that’s about 1.34 trillion gallons. One gallon of biofuel takes about 3.25 gallons of water to produce…the math just doesn’t add up here. When water shortages occur, the priority will have to be water for people and crops…there just won’t be enough water left to use for fracking or biofuel production.
Lastly, there’s the issue of groundwater pollution…which isn’t something most people really think about. However, check out the EPA’s How’s My Waterway website to get the scoop on water quality of streams and rivers near you. It’ll tell you about water tests for metals, pathogens, pesticides, etc. You might be surprised by what you find…I know I was!
There’s been all sort of discussion lately about fracking (hydraulic fracturing of shale rock) to access natural gas that was previously thought to be inaccessible. The concern has been over the fluids used in the fracking process, what little we know about them indicates they are toxic and not something we want in our groundwater (the actual ingredients are considered trade secrets and not typically disclosed, though Colorado recently enacted a law to change that). Evidence has shown these fluids can turn up in groundwater. On the other side of the debate though, the industry disputes that claim and says that fracking is safe, that the fluids can’t go from the shale layers to the aquifers. Which side to believe? An article in Scientific American indicates that both sides may be right, depending on your point of view. It’s an interesting and short read and I encourage you to read it in full, but the gist of it is that yes, fracking doesn’t contaminate the water, but the wells that carry the fluids to and from the fracking layers CAN. Cracks in the cement casings of those wells can allow the fracking fluid to escape into the aquifers that the wells pass through to get to the fracking layers. More to the point, this concern would apply to virtually any time of natural gas extraction, not just fracking. So, it’s a bit worse than originally feared! Read more about it here.