Is Fracking Damaging the Water Supply in Drought-Ridden California?

If you’ve been keeping up with the fracking debate and the recent California drought, you’ve probably been hearing a lot of conflicting stories. And all the while, California is so dry, it felt it needed to put historic water restrictions in place. But is fracking causing the water shortage? Not by sheer consumption, no:

[Environmentalists have] blamed the 70 million gallons of water used for fracking and the bottled water industry for wasting water, when both count for a minuscule amount, obscuring the actual impact by talking about “millions of gallons” of water use. (One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons.) In fact, the impressive 70 million gallons of water used for fracking converts to just 214 acre-feet, a proverbial drop when compared to 34 million acre-feet used in agriculture. “When someone talks about millions of gallons, it’s because they don’t want to talk about hundreds of acre-feet,” Obegi said.

So is that case closed? Fracking isn’t contributing to the water problem in California? Not so fast. Sure, agriculture uses 34 million acre-feet of water, but every drop of that water can return into the water cycle. Not so with fracking. The water used in fracking is mixed with toxic chemicals and cannot be returned to the water cycle for drinking or agricultural use. Further, according to one report, oil companies were disposing of their dirty fracking water in such a way that it was polluting water they didn’t even use for their process:

California State water Resources Board issued a report to the EPA confirming that yes, at least nine of the eleven fracking sites were deliberately dumping poisoned waste water directly into central California aquifers. The waste water is laden with extremely hazardous toxins and carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking and the aquifers the industry destroyed are protected by both state laws as well as the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. . . .

According to the damning report, over 3 billion gallons of poisoned waste-water were illegally injected directly into central California aquifers, and that water samples collected at water supply wells tested in the proximity of the fracking injection sites all had extremely high levels of known carcinogenic chemicals such as arsenic. Arsenic, besides being a cancer-causing agent, also weakens the human immune system. The arsenic is combined with a toxin used in rat poison, thallium, that was found in water supplies in and around the fracking injection sites. The water wells are useless as a safe drinking-water resource as well as worthless for the state’s very substantial agricultural industry.

If these reports are true, that’s bad news. It’s interesting to note that water pollution is rarely discussed by the mainstream media. Environmentalists are given a voice as long as they are screeching about global warming, but the reasonable people talking about trash in the ocean and poison in our drinking water are generally not represented. Perhaps we should be taking better note.