Water Wars - Colorado Farmers vs Oil & Gas Frackers
- 21 July 2012
- Maryruth Belsey Priebe
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During times of some of the most severe droughts, in Colorado, guess who is after the water ... yup the Oil & Gas Frackers.
In ongoing water auctions, Colorado farmers face some stiff competition this summer, for fresh water supplies, and the competion is backed by the oil and gas interests.
The Oil and Gas interests use hydraulic fracturing (commonly "hydrofracking" or just "fracking") to extract oil and natural gas from the earth. The practice of "hydrofracking" injects water and chemicals under high pressure into rock formations to extract natural gas and oil. A study by the New York Times in early 2011 revealed that the wastewater, which can total more than 1 million gallons per drilling and can contain corrosive salts and carcinogens, often contains high levels of radioactive material and is inadequately treated before discharge into rivers that supply drinking water.
Run by the Northern Water Conservancy District, the water auction offers up excess water diverted from the Colorado River Basin. And the water-hungry oil and gas industry wants to get their hands on that water.
Estimated to required 13,900 acre-feet of water for natural gas and oil fracturing processes in the state in 2010, this steadily growing industry may increase to as much as 18,700 acre-feet per year by 2015. Each well drilled for the oil and gas industry requires anywhere between 500,000 and 5 million gallons of water.
Though the fracking industry uses only a small portion of the water in the state (0.08% compared to 87% used by agriculture), Colorado farmers and water advocates have raised concerns about selling water to the highest bidders, especially during droughts and when the highest bidders have profit in mind more than the long-term sustainability of a community.
What kind of precedent does it set to sell water to those who can pay the most? What happens when the price of water increases so that it’s too expensive for the average citizen, but affordable for rich energy companies? It’s a future many rightfully fear. Tell us what you think.
In the meantime, sing along with the Fracking Song and get active - 'cause its your water ...