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With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

KQED reports that California’s historic drought and shrinking water supplies are putting a spotlight on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and its thirst for freshwater. In other states, the controversial technique is a heavy water consumer, using millions of gallons of freshwater to extract oil or gas from each well.

In California, fracking uses less water on average than in other states, according to industry data. But that trend is shifting, as oil companies make a play for the Monterey Shale, the largest untapped oil resource in the country.

Other key points from the article:

  • Farmers near Bakersfield are concerned about orchards in areas to be opened up to fracking. While farmers fallow land and pull up orchards, they’re asking whether there’s enough water to go around.
  • Monterey Shale holds what could be the largest oil resource in the country: 13.7 billion barrels according to one estimate but it is hard to extract
  • Oil industry groups argue that fracking in California currently uses relatively little water compared to other users such as agriculture but fracking in Monterrey Shale will probably use a lot more water.
  • There will be a localized impact from fracking, because it happens in some of the most water-stressed parts of the state.
  • In the Rose oil field near Wasco, fracking uses from half a million to a million gallons of water per well, substantially more than other oil fields.
  • According to permits filed for the first time this year under new state regulations, oil companies are planning about 250 new fracking jobs that would draw water mostly from local water districts.
  • State Senator Fran Pavley introduced a bill, SB 1281, that would require oil companies to disclose the amounts of water they use in all operations, not just fracking.

“If we combine the fracking and the drought question together, it’s just making a bad situation worse,” says Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine.

Full article can be read here: http://blogs.kqed.org/science/audio/with-drought-new-scrutiny-over-frackings-water-use/

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