Californians are Thirsty But the State’s Fracking Wells Aren't

By UUA International Resources

As many of you may know, the UU United Nations Office is dedicated to combating climate change and environmental degradation. Staying abreast of both domestic and international issues, we are very concerned about the water crisis in California. In the midst of one of the worst droughts in the past century, this is a dire issue for agricultural, wildlife, livestock, and residents. Scientists are saying, if we continue to spew green house gases into the air at our current rate, water crisis' around the world will only worsen. In addition to addressing our green house gas emissions, we must also take a good look at how and where we are using our water. In California, you might be surprised to hear where this precious resource is going. Environmentalists' concerned about fracking is nothing new. But now, some in California have put an added twist on the argument: Drought . While California is in a state of emergency due to the water crisis, oil companies are using largeamounts of fresh water. But The Western State Petroleum Association (WSPA) has provided us with the following point of view:

Apparently, the WSPA says that fracking is getting a bad rap. Group representative, Tupper Hull, has stated that fracking in California only uses a small amount of water. According to Hull, all 2013 fracking operations in the state used only 105 million gallons of water – equivalent to the annual usage by 650 homes. In a separate statement, president of the WSPA, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, added that this was what it takes to keep two of the states golf courses green.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, releasing natural gas from shale stone formations (aka fracking) requires two to five million gallons of water per extraction.Two to Five million gallons of water for 1 frack job, and California only used only 105 million gallons in 2013? While I’m no mathematician, this just wasn’t adding up. There are ten counties in California with documented fracking activities. Additionally, there are numerous off shore drilling sites on islands along the coast. Only 105 million gallons? Really WSPA? So obviously there was a discrepancy between the EPA estimate and that provided by the WSPA. Digging deeper, we were met with a series of conflicting numbers and reports, undisclosed information, broad estimates and generalizations. It was like being trapped inside a house of mirrors. In this maze, one piece of evidence emerged:California’s oil industry is not required to report water usage. That's right, fracking sites in California are not mandated to report how much water they use. Anything reported, is offered voluntary. With this being the case, it is likely that the number provided by the WSPA grossly underestimates fracking’s total water usage. While it may be impossible calculate exact numbers, one thing is for sure: tremendous quantities of fresh water are being pumped down fracking wells.

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Fracking in areas of high water stress

Orange and red are areas of “high water stress” and “extremely high water stress.”
Woman protests fracking outside the State Capitol after Governor Brown delivered his State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento

Woman protests fracking outside the State Capitol after Governor Brown delivered his State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento