Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Science Technology

Fracking Is Draining Water From Areas In US Suffering Major Shortages 268

Posted by samzenpus
from the looking-for-a-drink dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "RT reports that some of the most drought-ravaged areas of the US are also heavily targeted for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing — a practice that exacerbates water shortages with half of the oil and gas wells fracked across America since 2011 located in places suffering through drought. Taken together, all the wells surveyed from January 2011 to May 2013 consumed 97 billion gallons of water, pumped under high pressure to crack rocks containing oil or natural gas. Up to 10 million gallons can go into a single well. 'Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country's most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,' says Mindy Lubber. 'Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the industry's water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use.' Nearly half (47%) of oil and gas wells recently hydraulically fractured in the U.S. and Canada are in regions with high or extremely high water stress. Amanda Brock, head of a water-treatment firm in Houston, says oil companies in California are already exploring ways to frack using the briny, undrinkable water found in the state's oil fields. While fracking consumes far less water than agriculture or residential uses, the impact can be huge on particular communities and is 'exacerbating already existing water problems,' says Monika Freyman. Hydraulic fracking is the 'latest party to come to the table,' says Freyman. The demands for the water are 'taking regions by surprise,' she says. More work needs to be done to better manage water use, given competing demand."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Fracking Is Draining Water From Areas In US Suffering Major Shortages

Comments Filter:
  • by grommit (97148) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:17AM (#46172693)
    Is it a coincidence that the water shortages started with the whiteboarding of Slashdot Beta? I think not.
  • by Eric Coleman (833730) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:23AM (#46172733)
    Disclaimer, I'm no fan of this. However, this is article is missing critical information, namely, how much water do these drought ridden communities normally use? The number 97 billion sounds like a lot, but without some sort of baseline for comparison it could actually be a small percentage of total water demands for a community.

    If one does some Fermi math on this, then it is a little less than 2 gallons per person per day per person in Texas. That's less water than a toilet uses. Are any of these drought ridden areas telling people to not flush their toilets?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's not the point. These areas are already under heavy stress and the fracking just adds to it even more. And I have a sneaky suspicion that the industry underestimated the amount of water they need in order to get the permits - kind of like how Slashdot underestimated the hatred for beta.

      Are any of these drought ridden areas telling people to not flush their toilets?

      Some are. It depends on where but for example, in some parts of CA you're guided to flush after a couple of times o furinating and flush after a single shit. So pee twice - flush; shit once - flush.

      • These areas are already under heavy stress and the fracking just adds to it even more.

        And how does that stress compare to the stress caused by wasteful irrigation practices?

        • And how does that stress compare to the stress caused by wasteful irrigation practices?

          And more importantly, which provides a greater economic benefit. If more people in the local community are employed by the frackers than by farming, per gallon used, then it makes sense that they should have priority for the water.

          Here is the solution:
          1. End the subsidies
          2. Set a market price for water
          3. There is no third step. The first two are enough.
          The water will now flow to whoever derives the greater benefit (and is thus willing to pay more). The price will naturally rise during droughts. Peo

          • by Burz (138833) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @01:41PM (#46175619) Journal

            This economist's pipedream looks like a recipe for externalizing the ravages of water depletion to the environment and to the dinner tables of working class people.

            Markets cannot automatically set priorities that involve the quality of the environment or long-term societal goals (like weaning off of fossil fuels) because the only decisions left are billions of seemingly isolated day-to-day petty greed choices that gang up against any larger considerations.

            Ecologists must have a say in how government policy reacts to a new industrial trend like this.

          • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @01:48PM (#46175697)
            Here in Colorado, water is sold on a fairly pure market.
            And that _is_ a problem because economics is how we value scarce resources.
            We're not used to valuing water that highly. We're going to have to change which means higher food and energy prices which isn't better for anyone over the longterm.
            Last March at the excess water shares auction they hold every year where farmers buy additional allotments, agriculture lost to the frackers.
            California is out of water and they grow most of the food for America.
            And there is no easy solution. We need food AND oil AND money to pay for them (as well as clean water to drink and clean air to breathe).
            Economics isn't a solution; it just frames the problem properly.
        • Waste (Score:4, Interesting)

          by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @12:41PM (#46174887) Homepage Journal

          Wasteful irrigation practices temporarily pull water out of the ground and, in general, either let it evaporate to rain down again somewhere else or store it briefly in foodstocks that will be eaten and returned to the system.
          Fracking takes water out of the ecosystem completely, since its used one time and the waste is typically then stored in containment wells "forever."

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:33AM (#46172789)

      Hello, I live in north-central PA (just south of Corning, NY), there has been a lot of fracking here recently. The process does use a lot of water, for a while there were water tanker trucks driving around all over the place. But then all of a sudden the trucks disappeared. Why? Because the wells were all drilled and fracked and producing. They will produce for quite a few years before they need re-fracking. So the "gigantic water usage" only happens now and then.

    • by CreatureComfort (741652) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:38AM (#46172837)
      We don't flush our toilets in Texas.

      We gather the contents into big bags, then elect them to congress.
      • by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:24AM (#46173285)

        And here I thought that was only done in Illinois...

      • We don't flush our toilets in Texas. We gather the contents into big bags, then elect them to congress.

        And the ones that don't get elected write beta interfaces for Slashdot?

    • by AGMW (594303)
      Also, are the non-drought-ravaged areas of the US being similarly "heavily targeted" for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing too, in which case if EVERYWHERE is being heavily targeted then, really, the drought areas aren't really being targeted at all now, are they. It's not like the Frackers are like "Hey, they're really dry over there, let's go todally frack them up dude"!
    • by tp1024 (2409684) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:48AM (#46172915)

      It's 0.14% of what is used for irrigation in agriculture. In other words: almost nothing.

      To be sure, fracking must be regulated. Very well and tightly regulated, especially concerning the chemicals used and the way fracking fluid is disposed. But I've grown up right next to some of the largest landstrip mines in the world and trust me: everything is better than that!

    • The USGS says that daily overall water use in the US is 410 billion gallons.

      Basically, if this report wanted to have meaningful statistics, they would have focused on small watersheds and communities currently stricken by drought, to look at the water usage of the community as a whole and of the fracking taking place in that area.

      Also, beta sucks.

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:53AM (#46172969)

      Disclaimer, I'm no fan of this. However, this is article is missing critical information, namely, how much water do these drought ridden communities normally use? The number 97 billion sounds like a lot, but without some sort of baseline for comparison it could actually be a small percentage of total water demands for a community.

      A quick check shows that the nation uses something more than 300 billion gallons of water PER DAY.

      SO 97 billion gallons per year is less than 0.1% of that total.

      In other words, stopping fracking right now, and diverting that water to drought-plagued areas, would have negligible effect, if any.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        Not to mention that if you drink what is used for fracking, you would die. If you used it to water your lawn, your lawn would die. If you used it to dump in the river, the fish would die.
        Highly entertaining that we get both people complaining about how fracking causes groundwater poisoning because the fluid used for fracking is so toxic and ALSO complaining that fracking takes water out of the system by pouring pure crystal clear water into wells.
    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Disclaimer, I'm no fan of this. However, this is article is missing critical information, namely, how much water do these drought ridden communities normally use? The number 97 billion sounds like a lot, but without some sort of baseline for comparison it could actually be a small percentage of total water demands for a community. If one does some Fermi math on this, then it is a little less than 2 gallons per person per day per person in Texas. That's less water than a toilet uses. Are any of these drought ridden areas telling people to not flush their toilets?

      I'm betting that we waste more water per day by leaving the water running when brushing our teeth than we could ever hope to consume in fracking. Talk about grasping at straws...

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Keep in mind they are talking about how this impacts water in the future, and it should be dealt with now.
        Which makes sense to have the company start looking at solutions. Or are you one of those loons that like to wait until there is a problem and then run around pointing fingers and spend a lot more to fix it?
        They are talking about droughts. Just in case you don't know, a drought is when you have more people using water then you get. So it can rain every day,. and you would still be i a drought if it didn

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Note that the water used for fracking doesn't have to be drinkable water. You can use sea water just as well. Also, most of that water is recovered on the first few days of production, as you "suck" it to get the oil/gas on the well. Over the lifetime of the well, it will produce an order of magnitude more water than what was used to stimulate it.

      The article isn't just missing critical information, it's also misrepresenting the info it has. There's a political agenda here, and it clearly shows.

    • Normally, when people use water, it goes out into the environment, evaporates, turns into rain, runs back into lakes and rivers, and is generally reclaimed. I'm no fracking expert, but my limited understanding is that water is pumped way underground. Well, if it's way down there, it seems to be pretty effectively taken out of circulation.
    • Relying on underground water is a risky strategy to begin with, but if you're taking it out at a slower rate than it naturally replenishes itself then you're fine. If you're pushing it and taking it out at a rate that's not much slower, then it doesn't take much to get you in trouble.

  • Propaganda bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nickodeimus (1263214) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:25AM (#46172745)
    Hydraulic fracturing has been a method of drilling for oil for over 60 years. The only differences are that now they can turn the drill head from a vertical bore to a horizontal bore and the depth of the wells are much greater, too.

    That said, the water they use for this process is not water only - it has chemicals in it that assist with the fracturing process. Its non-potable water and therefore must be cleansed before its returned to the land. Because of the cost of the chemicals, they reuse the same water over and over for more than one well.

    This article \ series of articles is just propaganda put out by or influenced by saudi oil princes who are smart enough to co-opt environmentalists and conservationists to do their dirty work. Think about it. Who does the petroleum glut in the US harm the most? Oil producing nations, of course. And of course these oil producing nations want to stop that and get back to their profits any way that they can.
    • That is true. Hydraulic fracking has been in use for many years. The main difference here is the magnitude and scale of frack drilling in the past 10 years. And as most people on slashdot know, not everything scales without consequences.
    • Hydraulic fracturing has been a method of drilling for oil for over 60 years. The only differences are that now they can turn the drill head from a vertical bore to a horizontal bore and the depth of the wells are much greater, too.

      That said, the water they use for this process is not water only - it has chemicals in it that assist with the fracturing process. Its non-potable water and therefore must be cleansed before its returned to the land. Because of the cost of the chemicals, they reuse the same water over and over for more than one well.

      This article \ series of articles is just propaganda put out by or influenced by saudi oil princes who are smart enough to co-opt environmentalists and conservationists to do their dirty work. Think about it. Who does the petroleum glut in the US harm the most? Oil producing nations, of course. And of course these oil producing nations want to stop that and get back to their profits any way that they can.

      So... source?

      Not that I do or don't believe you, but we wouldn't want someone to accuse you of perpetrating any 'propaganda bullshit.'

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Who does the petroleum glut in the US harm the most?"
      OPEC*, and internal oil. Of course, it doesn't really hurt them much, and you assume the people doing the fracking are independent from the companies we get our oil from. We are talking about Schlumberger, Halliburton , Baker Hughes, etc... so not exactly amateurs.

      If anyone was manipulating the article, it would be GasFrac Energy Services. They have a non-water fracking technique.

      *I suspect what you really wanted to say was OPEC. At least I hope so,

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
    This most of this article is based on information from the Ceres Investor Group [ceres.org]. So, who are they?

    Ceres mobilizes a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.

    Our mission is to mobilize investor and business leadership to build a thriving, sustainable global economy.

    They are a self-professed environmental activist organization. That puts the results of their self-done study in question.

    The major tip-off that something wasn't right was the title of this submission. It implies that fracking is causing water shortages by destroying watershead via draining. The report doesn't say that. What it says is that fracking uses lots of water and most fracking operations are taking

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Noryungi (70322)

      OK, "Ceres Investor Group" may be biased but that does not mean their data is wrong.

      As a matter of fact, most of the the time, the studies financed by Big Business are much more biased than the ones financed by environmental groups.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:47AM (#46172905) Homepage

      They are a self-professed environmental activist organization. That puts the results of their self-done study in question.

      And, of course, anything the companies doing the fracking tell us is also in question, because it's in their interests to say "but it's safe". So if you're going to dismiss what the environmentalists tell you, you also need to dismiss what the oil companies are telling you.

      It implies that fracking is causing water shortages by destroying watershead via draining.

      And where do you think that water comes from? Either wells or the municipal supply -- which will lead to draining the wastershed faster.

      Unless these companies are bringing in their own water to do the fracking, it could only be coming from the local supply. And if you're draining that much water, you will have an impact.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You should look a little deeper. Ceres is about helping business make decisions, and they are recognized as a good source of information from the business community, and their GRI report is considered one of the best. Nothing i this report looks incorrect, or manipulated.

      http://www.ceres.org/resources... [ceres.org]

      Yes, we all should be concerned about bias, and yes you raise a red flag, but looking deeper they have been pretty good with numbers.

      Unlike, say, Greenpeace,

      "The report doesn't say that. What it says is that

  • Context people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:34AM (#46172805) Homepage Journal

    10M gallons is a lot of water, isn't it? 97B is unimaginable, isn't it?

    Well, at least until you start figuring that American families average 300 gallons [epa.gov]. So 10M gallons for a single well is 'merely' 1 years worth of water for a 100 families. With 115M households, that's ~12.6T gallons of water used by people at home every year. Meaning Fracking is .8% of domestic water usage.

    Then figure that 'domestic' is only 8.5% of our water usage, with irrigation taking up 37% and thermoelectric power 42%.

    I don't object to making fracking companies pay a premium, import their water, use treated & filtered sewage, or other options to leave the 'good water' to people who need it, but let's face it - your average water company could save more water patching leaks they've let sit for a while(17% of domestic usage is wasted on leaks) than what fraking companies use.

    • Re:Context people (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rabun_bike (905430) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:55AM (#46173617)
      Of course all of the water usage you are citing in comparison is sent back into the water supply system. A lot of fracking fluid is injected into deep disposal wells and does not re-enter the water system. The industry is trying to move to more recycling but is complicated and costly due to the chemicals and minerals in the fracking water.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03... [nytimes.com]
      • by Firethorn (177587)

        The Ocean is part of the 'water supply system'; there's a lot of evaporation in the uses I mentioned. When you look at those systems it's an even tinier drop in the bucket.

    • 10M gallons is a lot of water, isn't it? 97B is unimaginable, isn't it?

      Well, at least until you start figuring that American families average 300 gallons [epa.gov].

      Any idea where the EPA came up with that figure? I don't see any source citation on their page...

      Far be it from me to question the honesty of a government agency, but it's not like they haven't lied to us "for our own good" in the past. [cato.org]

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        It's there with the graphic - American Water Works Association Research Foundation, "Residential End Uses of Water". 1999.

        A bit old - I'd prefer within the last decade, but I generally prefer government sources for this sort of thing.

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      I have a well, and septic. I recycle all of my water.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        I do too. However it'd be disingenuous to think that we're the rule, not the exception. Most people get their water from piped systems.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      And if all the water came from on magical source, you would have a point.

      The report is talking about water usage in drought and water stressed areas. You know, areas that are also doing other things to restrict water usage.

      "your average water company could save more water patching leaks they've let sit for a while(17% of domestic usage is wasted on leaks)"
      patching? what you mean is dig up and replace pipes. It's very expensive. Consumers dislike the cost of a good system. Prior to Katrina, New Orleans lost

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        You know, areas that are also doing other things to restrict water usage.

        And you ignore that I then delve a bit deeper - suggesting alternative sources, extra fees, etc... Water companies don't have to sell to frackers if they need the water otherwise. But in reality their usage is small enough to not really matter.

        Yes, digging up and replacing pipes is expensive, but it's not always the only solution, I've read about some neat sleeving techniques, various sealants, etc...

        Use the frackers as an opportunity. Charge them enough for their water that you can afford to fix enough

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:41AM (#46172867)

    In other words, fracking is using up 0.14% of the amount of water used for agricultural irrigation. Most of that in dry parts of the United States (who would have guessed that?!).

    http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/w... [usgs.gov]

    Shut the fuck up if all you have are not arguments but LIES!

  • And SO IS THE BETA!

  • by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:43AM (#46172875) Homepage Journal

    American history is fairly unique in that a lot of the laws were written at a time when there were massive quantities of natural resources just lying around for anyone who "wasn't lazy" to grab. The idea that the nation's supplies of oil, gas, and water don't belong to the nation to be used by America for Americans, but instead belong to anyone who can fund the means to extract them (even out from under their neighbors) is relatively unusual. It also leads to an accelerated tragedy of the commons.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:53AM (#46172967)
    Surely the ability to keep America powered with "cheap" domestic oil is far more important than drinking water, right? I mean it's not like Americans drink tapwater, bathe, or eat vegetables anyway. Also, Beta sucks.
  • ... and damned if you don't. One more round for the environmental version of the peanut gallery.

    The great thing about the watershed is that it renews itself every year. If we take a small portion of what comes in rainfall every year and inject it into a fracking well, the next year we'll pretty much be back to where we started.

    If the glaciers on the planet melt, then we have too much water. If we put it down fracking wells, then we'll have too little!

    It's like watching the wardrobe of the latest movie actre

  • RT.com is the Kremlin's mouthpiece in the West. The Kremlin's power derives from oil money, and they desperately need oil prices to remain above $100/barrel. Oil prices are undermined by fracking. Russia has been engaged in an anti-fracking campaign in Europe, and apparently, they're bringing this campaign to the US. In the meantime, you can expect more articles attempting to undermine the Western hemisphere's domestic oil operations, such as this one: http://rt.com/usa/native-ameri... [rt.com]. I'm not pro- or ant
  • by Jody Bruchon (3404363) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:15AM (#46173197)
    There's nothing like getting fucked.
    Without advance warning.
    With a rake.
    In the eyes.
    In the corner of an Internet prison cafeteria.
    Slashdot BETA is a war against the Internet proletariat. [youtube.com]
    Oh well, back to 4chan.
  • by some old guy (674482) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:18AM (#46173233)

    Fracking is good for business, so the environmental and health arguments are falling on deaf ears. The Republocrat duopoly sees only dollar signs

    And /. beta still sucks.

  • by grahamm (8844) <gmurray@webwayone.co.uk> on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:26AM (#46173295) Homepage

    If the area has a drought then priority for water should be given to human consumption and hygene usages. Anyone using 'industrial' quantities of water should be charged in such a way as to discourage its use. Either that or the oil companies should have to pay for pipelines and pumps to bring sea water to their sites rather than competing for the local water supply. Even better make them not only pipe in sea water but also provide desalination plants to augment the local drinking water supplies. After all, the oil companies are no strangers to long distance pipelines.

    • by DRJlaw (946416)

      Taken together, all the wells surveyed from January 2011 to May 2013 consumed 97 billion gallons of water, pumped under high pressure to crack rocks containing oil or natural gas.

      Anyone using 'industrial' quantities of water should be charged in such a way as to discourage its use.

      Hell yeah!

      But not the farmers... they only use about 100-150 billion gallons per day. Says the USGS [usgs.gov]. But Willie Nelson says they're good people...

    • by TheSync (5291)

      If the area has a drought then priority for water should be given to human consumption and hygene usages.

      If the area has a drought, water should be priced at market prices.

      Industrial users will be more sensitive to price increases and will decrease use faster than people who just need a few gallons to take a bath.

      And if the price goes up high enough, expensive water reclamation and desalination plants will become economically effective. Or people may start driving in trucks full of water. Free market FTW!

  • Everyone said they were no frackin' good!
  • One of the big differences in water use with fracking wells is that the water is contaminated with many dangerous chemicals including benzine as well as natural elements like salt. That water is so nasty it is hard to reclaim back into water that can be used again. Therefore most fracking fluid water it is taken out of the water supply system forever in many cases by injecting contaminated water into deep wells for permanent storage. In other words the fresh water is contaminated for a one-time-use and t
  • Most of it is pumped back out anyways to get the petroelum/gas out. I dont know how widespread recyling is.
  • So how much is 10 million American Gallons in Olympic size swimming pools? We got use some standard units of measure dammit.

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

Working...