Fracking is using up billions of gallons of water in the places that need it most

The country's most drought-prone areas are further strained by drilling, a new report finds

Topics: fracking, drought, Extreme weather, Climate Change, Oil and Gas,

The tremendous drought that’s currently affecting California has the state anticipating the need to conserve its remaining water — Gov. Jerry Brown has urged residents to cut their usage by 20 percent, and some are beginning to argue that it’s time to make restrictions mandatary. As climate change worsens, we can expect dry periods like this — not just in California, but across wide swaths of the country — to get worse, the demand for water more pressing. And the 97 billion gallons of water needed to frack our oil and gas wells isn’t helping matters.

Of the 4,000 oil and gas wells drilled in the U.S. since 2011, a new report from Ceres found, a full three-quarters owere located in areas of water scarcity. More than half — 55 percent — were in areas experiencing drought. 

The Guardian reports on how fracking is increasingly competing with communities’ dwindling water supplies:



A number of small communities in Texas oil and gas country have already run out of water or are in danger of running out of water in days, pushed to the brink by a combination of drought and high demand for water for fracking.

Twenty-nine communities across Texas could run out of water in 90 days, according to the Texas commission on environmental quality. Many reservoirs in west Texas are at only 25% capacity.

Nearly all of the wells in Colorado (97%) were located in areas where most of the ground and surface water is already stretched between farming and cities, the report said. It said water demand for fracking in the state was expected to double to 6bn gallons by 2015 – or about twice as much as the entire city of Boulder uses in a year.

In California, where a drought emergency was declared last month, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water.

“It’s a wake-up call,” James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, told the Guardian. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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