Texas has been suffering from a drought. In some areas, it is the worst drought seen in two generations. But the drought alone is not responsible for mounting water problems across the state. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing, the process by which water mixed with sand is pumped underground to push oil and gas resources to the surface, is adding to the problem.
Fracking requires millions of gallons of water to be pumped underground. While statewide, water used for fracking accounts for only 1% of water use, in the areas where wells are concentrated, it accounts for a much higher percentage, often up to 40%. In these areas, wells are running dry and the residents are suffering. In some small Texas towns, local governments are scrambling to build new pipelines, and are bringing water in by tankers. Residents in Barnhart, Texas are forming prayer circles to pray for enough rain to end the drought. Unfortunately, even a reasonable amount of rain will not be enough to replenish aquifers.
Many small town residents are furious that oil companies are coming into their areas and essentially stealing their water. One fracking job can take anywhere from 4 million to 8 million gallons of water to complete. With the number of wells in Texas having doubled from last year to this year, this is an incredible amount of water.
What are some proposed solutions?
- Pass regulations limiting how much water the oil and gas companies can use. Such legislation has not yet been passed.
- Push the oil and gas companies to use recycled or brackish water in their processes. Brackish water has a high level of salinity, and is being used by many companies. However the process is much more intricate and complicated, and not all oil and gas companies are able to utilize it efficiently.
- Continue to make fracking more efficient. Fracking has become a more efficient process, now using 4 million gallons of water as opposed to 7 or 8. However, when considering the thousands of wells across the state, even 4 million gallons is a huge amount.
Though fracking has brought economic development and many other positives to rural areas of Texas, it is hard for residents to ignore the constant stress of low water supplies.