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What some ranchers may not know when they agree to sell drilling leases to energy companies, granting them permission to drill and frack on their land, is that in some cases they are reaping the seeds of their own destruction.
The problem is that the huge water demand of the fracking industry has put wells and water aquifers in Texas under a lot of pressure, and the recent heat waves and droughts have proven too much, causing some to dry up fully.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has stated that around 30 communities in the Lone Star State may actually run out of water by the end of the year, not something that people would expect from a first world country.
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The town of Barnhart, a small settlement on the eastern edge of the Permian basin, is already coming to terms with the reality that its wells have dried up. Beverly McGuire, a homeowner from Barnhart, explained that “the day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes.”
Water wells in Barnhart have dried up due to the fracking industry’s high demand. (The Guardian)
Locals started to really notice the lack of water when frackers started turning up in the area around two years ago. Unable to find access to sufficient levels of water ranchers were slowly forced to cut their herds in size, and cotton farmers saw their crops dwindle as they were unable to water the fields.
Buck Owens used to run 500 cattle and as many as 8,000 goats on his ranch, but know that is down to just a few hundred goats, after contractors, whom he had signed leasing deals with, drilled 104 water wells on his land to supply local fracking operations.
The problem is that as the water reservoirs started to run low, the residents were forced to obey to water rationing schemes, whilst the fracking companies kept on making their huge demands, and people with private wells were taking advantage of that demand by selling their precious water to frackers, rather than helping the town.
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Larry Baxter, from the nearby town of Merzton, stated that “if you're going to develop the oil, you've got to have the water.” The Guardian wrote that Baxter’s “well could produce enough to fill up 20 or 30 water trucks for the oil industry each day. At $60 a truck, that was $36,000 a month, easily.”
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at the Texas Tech University in Lubbock, claims that the recent droughts, nor fracking operations, are the real cause for the low water supplies. “We have large urban centres sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com
The lady from Texas Tech University quoted here is better quoted in the Guardian saying that farmers/ranchers/agriculture have been over-using the aquifers for decades, and the new fracking methods are merely the latest additional heavy water usage. I remember as a student at Texas Tech 40 years ago, our geology professors telling us how wells were drilled in playa lakes ("buffalo wallows") to replenish the aquifers after rains by draining rain water down the wellbores back into the aquifers. But those wells plugged up with sediment during the first heavy rains, rendering them useless.
So the lion's share of the stress on the aquifers has been from decades of heavy agriculture irrigation, and cyclical droughts since weather patterns began to be recorded over 100 years ago. Fracking is just the latest, and far and away most visible water usage. Anyone want to wager how many months, or even days, before Hollywood announces the coming release of another film about their favorite boogeyman, the evil oil companies, taking all the water for fracking, and residents dying of thirst?