Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fracking worsens pressure on water supplies in parched Texas

Wendy Koch, of USA Today, visited drought-striken Austin, Texas for the Lone Star State installment of USA Today's current series on climate change.
     The period since 1950 in the Southwest has been hotter than any comparably long period in at least 600 years, says the draft of the third federal National Climate Assessment report.
     Frackers, who are giving what landowners tell Koch amounts to "mailbox money" for the right to tap their wells, are causing some wells to run dry and have even created conflicts within families.
What's exacerbating water worries in parts of Texas is water-intensive fracking, which is taking off in some of the state's driest areas.
      Half of Texas' oil and gas wells were in "high or extremely high water stress" regions, according to a report in May by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit that promotes corporate sustainability. Nationwide, the report says, 47% of these wells are in water-stressed areas.
      In Texas, water for fracking jumped 125% in three years and will continue to increase before leveling off in the 2020s, according to a University of Texas-Austin study this year by research scientist Jean-Phillippe Nicot.
      The UT study says oil and gas drilling accounts for less than 1% of water use statewide, and one-fifth of water used in fracking is recycled or brackish. But a similar 2011 study, also by Nicot, found it accounts for at least 20% of water in some counties where fracking is big business.
      Hugh Fitzsimons,a Dimmit County bison rancher, suspects fracking has depleted nearby wells so much that one of his wells is running low. "I've had trouble irrigating," says Fitzsimons, whose herd has dropped from 400 in 2007 to 100.

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