Texas is water-challenged without fracking. Aquifer levels have been dropping for many years, and recently Texas has seen one drought after another. But there’s something deeply and particularly depraved about using up water to get at fossil fuels, the use of which is possibly contributing to the droughts.
Texas shale producers used about 25 billion gallons of water last year, and with more and more drilling in the Eagle Ford Formation, that figure will continue to grow. In some West Texas and South Texas counties – almost invariably drought-stricken counties – fracking accounts for 10 to 25 percent of water use and is projected to pass 50 percent in the future. Every month, oil and gas companies dispose of 290 million barrels of wastewater from fracking. That’s the equivalent of 18,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Luke Metzger of Environment Texas points out. That’s water that can never be used again – in a drought-debilitated state, no less.
At least partial solutions are possible, including mandatory recycling, saline or brackish water use and waterless fracking, but Texas lawmakers, for the most part, have allowed the industry to have its way. Although they approved funding for a Texas water plan, setting up a statewide vote this year, bills during the past session that would have required oil and gas companies to recycle water used in fracking never made it out of committee because of industry opposition.
The Legislature did pass a bill that encourages recycling, but it’s weak. As Metzger points out, “It’s still cheaper to just dispose of frackwater waste in injection wells, so most companies don’t have an incentive to recycle.”
Yeah, good ol’ business-friendly Texas. The climate-change-denying governor goes around telling businesses to come to Texas where they don’t have to deal with all those pesky regulations. So business interests in Texas have a free hand to use the small towns “as vassal states to be used up and discarded.”
Ironically, older ways of making a living are being hurt by the water shortage as well. Cattle need water, too; ranchers are having to sell off their livestock or else watch the animals die.
So “business-friendly” Texas isn’t necessarily friendly to all business; just those with enough money to spread around in Austin.
The musical selection for today’s blog: