Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Fracking Texas: Water Woes Go On

.... Water's precious, and lots of things can wreck it. But we're learning how to stop that for most of Texas' traditional water users.

The oil patch is an exception, especially with fracking. It's a big deal in non-Gee-Oh-Pee media right now, but Barnhart's headline water shortage took place at the beginning of June. Some background on the town of Barnhart is here.

But as is typical of the oil-boosting /pro-big-money cheerleading WSJ, no mention's made of the (inevitable, in oilpatch country) coming bust to follow the 'boom'. Will there be one? Does the sun come up in the East, and do Exxon-Mobil and BP have lobbyists? (Just wait. It'll look like The Grapes of Wrath. I remember the bust in '88 in Big Spring. Suddenly-single moms with small kids, surviving in cabover campers guys Arbusto'd laid off left behind when they took the pickups to new jobs somewhere else, since the Olney Savings and Loan crisis had taken away all their houses. Y'all have no idea what harm the Bush family has done, really, in its relentless pursuit of money and power....) Back to Barnhart's catastrophic influx of fracking-related oilfield water use: Beaumont's a refinery town on the Gulf Coast -- clean across Texas from Barnhart. Oil comes to them in tanker trucks to keep the plants running from Texas' oil fields far to the west and north, as well as in sea-going tankers from the Middle East. Their paper had this to say; and finally here's a piece at Mother Jones, which may / may not have been part of The Guardian's coverage.

Water shortages involve waste on scales that ought to shame anybody with a working brain -- and in the Permian Basin, which is a desert country anyway, those shortages are the more shameful for the waste involved. Can you hear me now, Randy Neugebauer, John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz? Oh, wait ... working brain ... lets out the (warning: PDF) Texas State Supreme Court, too. Farmers like Dawdy we might outlast. Lawyers and legal precedents are, like corporations, forever. Zombies, lying in ambush against our futures.

This lady works at my alma mater, which has had a drought / arid institute for more than 30 years. Recently she told a reporter there are plenty of reasons for the water shortages. She's right.

But Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry—and nor is the drought. The latest shocks to the water system come after decades of overuse by ranchers, cotton farmers, and fast-growing thirsty cities.

"We have large urban centers sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water," she said.

And then there is climate change.

West Texas has a long history of recurring drought, but under climate change, the Southwest has been experiencing record-breaking heat waves, further drying out the soil and speeding the evaporation of water in lakes and reservoirs. Underground aquifers failed to regenerate. "What happens is that climate change comes on top and in many cases it can be the final straw that breaks the camel's back, but the camel is already overloaded," said Hayhoe.

Meanwhile, in the wet part of Texas, Spicewood Beach ran out of water in 2012 and it's not fixed yet. Between the drought, big ag, summertime in Texas, climate change, and big oil, there's just flat not enough water. Or maybe there's a different problem: we're wasting too much water, 'cause we refuse to recognize what a limited resource it is.

The San Angelo Standard Times reported that Barnhart, Texas had run out of water back in June. (San Angelo's paper is probably the best one in the state now.)

An explosion in oil field activity has caused what used to be a 65-family community to quadruple in the past eight months, Baumann said.

Mobile homes and recreational vehicles have been appearing all over Barnhart, Avery said, with five to 12 mobile homes hooking up to meters designed to supply one household.

The older well, which would provide a temporary reprieve, has been used to fill firetrucks for the Barnhart Volunteer Fire Department in recent years because the TCEQ said its water could not be used for human consumption.

Anybody who's ever been around an oil boom knows this worker-influx is typical.It's a lot like the Old West: go there and exist 'til you can afford to send for the family. Jobs -- maybe especially in the Permian Basin, the oilpatch I grew up around -- like these are physically demanding, working conditions often filthy and dangerous, and the "play" in an oilfield by its very nature temporary. During the boom, though, the money runs like ... water. That's why it's a boom-and-bust cycle, and that's why there's a "gold rush" effect. Steadier kinds of mining -- salt, coal, lead, silver, potash -- also use/destroy water. But the oil patch is a greedy consumer when it comes to water. "Get all you can now 'cause it won't last." That's how the oilpatch works. Over the big orange gas flare for more ...
...more at this site

Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment -