Fracking is a controversial way of sourcing oil and gas for energy creation.
While some argue that natural gas is better for air quality than burning coal, others have noted that the leaking of methane from fracking sites essentially wipes out any benefits in terms of pollution savings from coal.
Meanwhile, drilling for shale gas thousands of feet below ground level can also encourage earthquakes. Yale Climate Connections cited data from the 2014 Annual Reviews of Environment and Resources, which observed a rise in the number of earthquakes correlating with the increased sourcing of shale gas.
Fracking is also a water-intensive process, and the development of “monster frack” sites is leading to concerns about the impact on water supplies.
A New York Times investigation found that the amount of water used by the oil and gas industry has now reached record levels.
From 2011, the publication observed that the industry used 1.5 trillion gallons of water to obtain dirty energy supplies. Fracking a single oil or gas well can use 40 million gallons of water or more, the Times added.
“Monster frack” sites now account for two of every three fracking wells in Texas. Some of the water is sourced from aquifers, a natural water resource being drained by the industry.
Why is this so concerning?
Fracking wastewater contains a number of chemicals required to complete the fracking process, in addition to contamination from the sourced oil or gas, as well as rock fragments. It can’t be reused without appropriate treatment.
Using such vast amounts of water for the sake of extracting dirty energy sources puts a significant strain on usable water sources that communities rely on.
In Texas, for example, aquifer water is often used on farms and ranches. However, with supplies decreasing due to fracking activity, there are serious consequences for local residents and businesses.
Farmer and rancher Bill Martin told the New York Times that he uses groundwater to grow cantaloupes, and the water from aquifers is used for a number of purposes in the local area.
“If the water goes away, the whole community goes away,” he said.
Meanwhile, if no limits are placed on fracking companies to source water, they can continue using considerable amounts even in times of drought, limiting the supply to local communities. With global heating increasing drought events, this problem could become more pronounced.
What can be done to stop the threat to water supplies?
An end to fracking and a focus on more sustainable energy solutions, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, can help stop the capture of polluting oil and gas and halt the overuse of vital water supplies.
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