Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fracking Boom Threatens US Water Supplies

Mixed message: a warning sign at a fracking site in Pennsylvania (Credit: Ostroff Law via Wikimedia Commons) Click to enlarge.
Nearly half a million wells in the US were producing shale gas in 2012.  But while many countries now seek to bolster their economies by following the American lead in exploiting this controversial new source of fossil fuels, campaigners in the US are warning of serious collateral damage to the environment: the depletion and contamination of vital water supplies.

The process of fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing”, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals down vertical wells and along horizontal shafts - which can be several miles long - to open up small pores in the rock.  This releases the methane for capture.

Fracking a well just once uses upwards of five million gallons of water, and each well can be fracked 18 times or more.  Texas alone used an estimated 25 billion gallons of water for fracking in 2012, according to a recent report by Ceres, a not-for-profit group advising investors on climate change.

Where surface water is lacking, as in Texas, underground aquifers are being emptied at record rates.  And while fracking’s water use still trails behind personal and agricultural uses, demand is accelerating even while much of the US is suffering extreme drought, which is probably caused or worsened by climate change exacerbated, ironically, by burning fossil fuels.

Fracking Boom Threatens US Water Supplies

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