“We’re using scarce resources to get scarce resources.”
This statement was made by a Houston oil corporation vice president in 2011, the year of the worst Texas drought on record. He was referring to the massive use of freshwater in the oil and gas fracking boom.
The oil corporations know freshwater is scarce in Texas but they use it by the billions of gallons each year because the way Texas water laws are written, no one can stop them. Texas law allows county Groundwater Conservation Districts to control how much water farmers and ranchers pump from aquifers. The oil industry, for political reasons, is allowed to pump as much freshwater as they want and they don’t even have to report how much they’re using.
A report published recently by the Texas Water Development Board reveals that the Trinity aquifer dropped an average of 19.7 feet in 2010-2011. The Trinity Aquifer is under the Barnett Shale fracking operation that runs through Central Texas. Our Edwards Trinity Plateau Aquifer connects to the Trinity Aquifer in counties south of Llano. I refer to it as “our aquifer” because its springs supply all the water flowing in the Llano River during times of drought. It would make sense that lower levels in the Trinity Aquifer would pull the levels in our aquifer down since they are connected.
San Angelo has only enough water left in their city reservoir to last 16 months. They hope to get a treatment plant on line in time to treat Hickory water and start using that aquifer before their supply runs out. In spite of this water emergency, San Angelo and Tom Green County are welcoming a large fracking operation to work the Cline Shale formation which juts down into the northwest section of the county. This vast fracking operation will need billions of gallons of freshwater annually. I can’t find any information on the source of the water that will fill the 5 acre storage ponds which will hold about 26 million gallons each and number in the dozens. The Edwards Trinity Plateau Aquifer lies beneath the Cline Shale. Yes, that’s the same aquifer that supplies the Llano River.
Many people don’t know that freshwater used for fracking is gone forever. It doesn’t return to the water cycle as does all other water used for human needs. About 80% of fracking water remains in the well thousands of feet down. The 20% that returns to the surface is contaminated with toxic chemicals and must eventually be injected into deep disposal wells. So the billions of gallons of freshwater that belongs to all of us is being taken and destroyed to provide huge profits for Big Oil. Sure they provide dirty low paying jobs for a small percentage of our population but that may be offset by oil field pollution from thousands of rigs and extensive truck traffic damage to our roads and highways.
The oil corporations don’t have to use our freshwater in order to carry on fracking operations. There is a huge abundance of brackish water available. This water has no use for human needs. The oil people don’t want to use it because it would cost more. They’d have to drill deeper to get it and they’d have to invest in equipment that could handle the salinity of the water.
Widespread fracking is projected to last for decades. It may increase exponentially when the multi-billion dollar Gulf Coast facilities for liquifying natural gas come online. Gas produced here will then be shipped overseas where more profits can be made. I’m guessing most of the oil will be shipped out as well.
Will the Llano River have to become a dry river bed before our state government and water control agencies put a stop to this madness? Would they stop it even then?