Horse News

Fracking depleting water supplies in driest areas

When the BLM issues Environmental Assessments or Drought plans to round up wild horses because there’s not enough water or forage, or ranchers complain about the 20 gallons of water per day that a wild horse may drink, be sure to check out the oil and gas leases and oil and gas lease maps for that BLM District. – Debbie Coffey


Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas, report shows

From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water in the country’s most drought-prone areas

by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent  Feb. 5, 2014

Aerial of Fracking Drill Shale Sites in Colorado
An aerial photograph shows a large field of fracking sites in a north-western Colorado valley. It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well. Photograph: Susan Heller/Getty images

America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine.  “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.”

It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts.

Half of the 97bn gallons of water was used to frack wells in Texas, which has experienced severe drought for years – and where production is expected to double over the next five years.

Shortage of water and fracking in Texas
Large hoses run from hydraulic fracturing drill sites in Midland, Texas. Fracking uses huge amounts water to free oil and natural gas trapped deep in underground rocks. With fresh water not as plentiful, companies have been looking for ways to recycle their waste. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP

Farming and cities are still the biggest users of water, the report found.  But it warned the added demand for fracking in the Eagle Ford, at the heart of the Texas oil and gas rush, was hitting small, rural communities hard.

“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said.  “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”

Local aquifer levels in the Eagle Ford formation have dropped by up to 300ft over the last few years.

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.

The pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush.  Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress, the report said.

Shale gas and water use in the US

Source: Ceres

Some oil and gas producers were beginning to recycle water, especially in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, the report said.  But it said those savings were too little to offset the huge demand for water for fracking in the coming years.

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18 replies »

    • This was my suggestion about importing water if they didn’t end up moving oil through the pipeline. If they can move oil-why not water?


      • Moving water out of an ecosystem to be used in another is a bad plan. Water should be used where it is returned back to the aquifer it came from. As a Canadian, I am not in favour of bulk export of water. There is lots of room for Americans to conserve water, including reducing fracking use. To use up a natural resource and just think it can be imported from somewhere else, has been the basis of much of our poor environmental decision making.


  1. It’s not just water use and subsurface pollution. This is from the 2013 report on National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing by the National Parks Conservation Association: “Astronomers at Theodore Roosevelt National Park—which once offered some of the nation’s darkest, most pristine night skies—also see a new constellation of flares from nearby fracking wells. Visitors heading east from Glacier National Park encounter road signs urging caution against the poisonous gases that fracking operations emit.”

    Light and noise pollution also adversely effect the biorhythms of animals and humans.

    Click to access Fracking_Report.pdf


  2. Some points to keep in mind (having researched this in some depth last year)

    Not all wells use fracking techniques, nor is fracking used every time in a single well, but some wells are fracked multiple times, and each time it typically uses millions of gallons of water.

    While more systems are being required to used “closed loop” systems, it is a general practice to collect, haul, and dump the “produced” water (waste water) from fracking off site, either in leach ponds or in abandoned wells (or simply dumped onto dirt roads, as has been widely documented). At a minimum this is removing vast water resources from entire ecosystems and infusing a toxic soup into areas which are naive to their effects.

    Typically this “water” is highly contaminated with a chemical cocktail designed for that particular site, along with many natural contaminants like radioactivity released by the fracking process. Most of what is in those fluids is “proprietary” so it is difficult to impossible to know what they contain. Something to keep in mind if riding, hiking, or bicycling on the public lands since you may be ingesting and carrying home with you more than you know.

    Downwind Ozone contamination has also been widely documented and in Colorado they have recently begun to realize Methane has been escaping from well sites at higher proportions than was once thought – because they were measuring emissions lower to the ground than where they were accumulating.

    While I’m all for energy self-sufficiency, if we achieve it at the loss of one of the rarest things on earth – fresh potable water – it is worse than a fool’s bargain.


  3. Anyone know who or what “Ceres” is/are?

    Everyone should watch “Gasland” and “Gasland ll”….disturbing.


  4. do any of the people drilling live near any of these areas proble not lets pray for rain and a quick answer ,why cant they use the water from the ocean instead they have money let them filter it its so stuipid


  5. What destruction isn’t accomplished through fracking will be through “land health projects”, such as the BLM/ PINE NUT LAND HEALTH PROJECT.
    Public lands are burned, chained , sprayed with herbicides and reseeded, often with non-native grasses. These projects drastically alter the western rangelands and natural ecosystems.
    In this particular project, public comments were basically ignored.

    Pine Nut Land Health Project

    Click to access Signed_Decision_Record.pdf


    • These plants are especially well adapted to low precipitation, and do decrease water availability! Las Vegas and other human activities such as continued development waste water and decrease water availability. These trees do not diminish wildlife habitat – human encroachment diminishes wildlife habitat! Pine nuts are food for birds and other wildlife! And no Environmental Impact Study either – because ‘the project does not constitute a major federal action having a significant impact on the human environment’. Wildfires and water aren’t significant?

      This agency is an absolute menace to wild lands and wildlife.


      • make that ‘These native plants are especially well adapted to a desert environment with low precipitation, and do not decrease water availability!’ I wish we’d quit meddling.


    • You are so right. Part of the environmental damage in the West is the result of programs put in place to correct “invasive” species programs based on the flawed claims that species should stay in their own fenced yard and not let the wind blow their spores, or climb aboard a camel crossing a land bridge to the United States. Yet, these scientists have been institutionalized within our systems and are directing many of the policies in federal agencies. Authentic science has been completely ignored. Amazing.

      Since the original means to remove horses (a native species that was documented as a likely native species in almost 20 sources prior to 1993) began within a draft for the 1976 Federal Land Management Policy Act, we know that the impetus behind removing wild horses and livestock—even human communities from the West began as a result of US citizens abuse of science in the early 1970’s. After several failures, the IUCN’s legal team redrafted exotic species provisions into the UN CBD Article 8 (h) which was eventually embedded into the 1997 International Plant Protection Convention. This treaty was ratified in October 2000, five years before the treaty went into force. One of the big ways this treaty differed from earlier IPPC’s is through the addition of animal species as plant pests. Therefore, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and wild horses are labeled as “invasive, plant pests” and are to be removed from areas all over the West.

      Quite frankly, looking at the actions the people who planned this even as they hit the campaign trail and we voted them into office without a clue about what they were really planings to do. These people do not care about anyone’s life but their own.


  6. Is anyone really surprised??? Fracking not only is being down out West, but they are trying to get it approved in Illinois. I am very disturbed at the attitude of our government literally destroying our natural resources, which includes our beautiful burros and wild horses. However, we can never give up the fight for our wild horses and burros.


    • According to the “Shale Gas Plays, Lower 48 States” map, the Illinois Basin has a very large area of the “Deepest/Oldest” formations. I have no idea how deep they want to go to recover the resource, but the deeper they go, the more water they use … and pollute. In our area of NM, public water treatment plants don’t accept extracted waste water, because it’s too difficult (and expensive) to treat it to a point where it meets EPA Clean Water Standards for release into the Upper Colorado River system. There’s also an informative Diagram of a Typical Hydraulic Fracturing Operation in this article.


  7. LONG and technical 2011 Executive Summary: “U.S. Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays”. Figure ii is REALLY scary!!! “Figure ii shows the technically recoverable shale gas resource and the fraction which has already been produced. The figure shows that, excluding the Appalachian plays and some of the newly developing plays, between one and three percent has been produced. The size of the remaining resource underscores the importance that shale gas can play in U.S. natural gas production as well as the necessity of this resource review.” So 97 to 99% is waiting in the wings. I doubt it will wait for long.

    Click to access usshaleplays.pdf


  8. And again, Sally Jewell is nowhere to be found.. Maybe she’s out dead bird watching or fishing the dry creeks for dead trout…. Now we see why she was promoted and confirmed by the groups that put her into office… she’s a puppet, a stupid woman, a thing to be used, abused and thrown away… She’s a black eye to all women in this country, I don’t care what office she holds… We see why THEY confirmed ;her…


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