Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ogallala Aquifer At Risk

Farmers Watching Their Water Use: Growers are Reluctantly Try to Irrigate Less to Preserve their Threatened Underground Aquifer by M. Peters Oct 29 2012 p. 9

Excerpted "Farmers, long fiercely protective of their water rights, fear use of the water at current rates could eventually end irrigated agriculture, and shrink the communities that rely on it, leaving few opportunities for the next generation...

The Ogallala [aquifer] stetches across parts of eight states, from South Dakota to Texas, and is made up of rock and sand saturated with water. Its thickness underground ranges from a few feet to more than 200 feet, and irrigation wells reach hundreds of feet down to tap water....

Majia here: This is how National Geographic Describes the Ogallala:

Texas Water District Acts to Slow Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer Sandra Postel of National Geographic's Freshwater Initiative in Water Currents on February 7, 2012

[Excerpted] The Ogallala is one of the nation’s largest and most productive underground water sources. It makes up more than three-quarters of the High Plains aquifer, which spans 175,000 square miles and underlies parts of eight U.S. states — Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Water drawn from it irrigates 15.4 million acres of cropland, 27 percent of the nation’s total irrigated area.... 

...The new USGS study found that 29 percent of the Texas’ portion of the Ogallala has already been depleted....

Majia here: As I was reading about the Ogallala Aquifer I wondered about the role of fracking in depleting and potentially contaminating this vital source of water.

I learned that in Texas, at least, the fracking process pulls water from the Ogallala for fracking. See this source here 

SOURCEWATCH provides detailed background information about the environmental risks of fracking at their portal on water http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Water

[Excerpted] Fracking involves injecting huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas and oil. In December 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency linked fracking to groundwater contamination for the first time in Wyoming. The agency is currently undergoing a multiyear national study of the effects the process has on water supplies.

Fracking is not regulated by federal statutes governing water safety, because industry lobbyists obtained an exemption from this law, known as the "Halliburton loophole." Although no complete list of the chemicals used by each drilling company exists, information obtained from environmental clean-up sites demonstrates toxic substances.

An April 2011 report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives, showed that 29 chemicals used in some 650 different fracking products are carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, and/or hazardous air pollutants.

An investigation by the New York Times in February 2011, based off of thousands of internal EPA documents "reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law."

In a March 2012 Rolling Stones piece, the journalists writes: "An even larger threat is the flowback waste that is pumped out after a well is fracked. It's a salty brine, mildly radioactive, and laced not just with toxic chemicals but with natural hydrocarbons and heavy metals like barium and benzene, which are known carcinogens even in minute quantities."

...According to a piece published in ProPublica, three company spokespeople and a regulatory official said that as much as 85% of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is regularly left after wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale. According to the article, this means that "for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than 3 million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater could be left in the ground forever. Drilling companies say that chemicals make up less than 1 percent of that fluid. But by volume, those chemicals alone still amount to 34,000 gallons in a typical well."

Impact of fracking on wildlife have been documented in a 900 page Environmental Impact Statement filed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in September 2011....

Majia here: It seems that FRACKING also poses a very real risk to CONTAMINATING GROUND WATER and potentially contaminating AQUIFERS if the contaminated fracking fluids move from ground water to the aquifer or if they fluids migrate through the rock underground, which seems to be a possibility.

The Sierra Club explains:

[Excerpted] As the documentary Gasland makes clear, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” causes many problems. Despite industry claims to the contrary, fracking contaminates water supplies. The gas industry, in carefully worded statements, claims that fracking is not known to contaminate water. They cleverly restrict the definition of fracking to the moment when the toxic, pressurized fluid fractures the rock. Technically they are correct because there is no way of knowing exactly what is going on miles beneath the surface inside a solid rock formation. But after hundreds and thousands of people have seen their water supplies contaminated once fracking operations commenced near their homes, it is abundantly clear that there is a connection between fracking and water contamination....

....Consider that the Niobrara shale gas formation in Northwest Kansas is right below the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source for farming and ranching in western Kansas....

Majia here: So the Agallala aquifer, the basis for viable farming in a large stretch of American land, is AT RISK by fracking not simply through water depletion, but also through water contamination.


PREVIOUS POSTS ON FRACKING



Aug 15, 2012
Majia's Blog: Transparency in Natural Gas Fracking: NOT!
Transparency in Natural Gas Fracking: NOT! Fracking Hazards Obscured in Failure to Disclose Wells By Benjamin Haas, Jim Polson, Phil Kuntz and Ben Elgin - Aug 14, 2012 ...

Jul 10, 2012
Though the fluids were natural and not the byproduct of drilling or hydraulic fracturing, the finding further stokes the red-hot controversy over fracking in the Marcellus Shale, suggesting that drilling waste and chemicals could ...

May 08, 2012
Fracking and the Environment: Natural Gas Drilling, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Contamination http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/3/fracking_and_the_environment_natural_gasn. Study: Fracking Chemicals Can ...

May 10, 2012
[Excerpt] "Last week's media coverage of the Obama administration's newly-proposed fracking rules focused so heavily on how drilling companies would have to disclose the chemicals they use that it largely overlooked the ...

Dec 09, 2011
EPA Ties Fracking, Pollution: Popular Drilling Technique Blamed for Tainting Water Supply in Wyoming Town by Solomon and Gold Dec 9 2011 p. A1. These articles discuss different dimensions of problematic aspects of ...

Dec 18, 2011
Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes? Fracking Suspected in Rash of Earthquakes in Unlikely Places By Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov 17 December 11 ...

Oct 21, 2011
The decision comes amid questions involving the drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting large amounts amounts of water and chemicals deep underground to unleash natural gas ...

Nov 10, 2011
A pair of environmental monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyo., contain high levels of cancer-causing compounds and at least one chemical commonly used in hydraulic fracturing, according to new ...

Apr 18, 2011
ONGOING ENVIRONMENTAL COLLAPSE UPDATE TODAY THE NYT REPORTS: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/science/earth/17gas.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23. Chemicals Were Injected Into Wells, Report ...

Apr 13, 2012
Quakes Caused by Fracking Waste. Quakes Caused By Waste From Gas Wells, Study Finds. http://www.npr.org/2012/04/11/150440356/quakes-caused-by-waste-from-gas-wells-study-finds. [excerpt] "A dramatic increase in ...

Mar 22, 2012
...health care professionals are bound by a non-disclosure agreement that not only forbids them from warning the community of water and air pollution that may be caused by fracking, but which also forbids them from telling ..

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