It’s been said that the human race is the only race where most of the participants can’t afford shoes and just as many don’t even have access to clean drinking water. Unfortunately, that’s not just a clever anecdote, it’s true. More than 20% of the world’s population does not have access to suitable drinking water . That’s over a billion people and ought to be considered a crime against humanity. Theoretically, at least, I’m not quite sure exactly who we can pin it on, though a recent article in Nature sheds some light as to where some questions should be directed .
Although there’s a shortage of drinking water, one thing that there isn’t, apparently, is a shortage of water for hydraulic fracking . Fracking, if you’re unfamiliar, is a process in which hard-to-access oil is extracted from the ground by means of injecting a fluid, often water, deep underground in order to, essentially, knock it loose. Fracking, though proclaimed safe by the very trustworthy oil and gas industry, has a number of potential environmental impacts that include groundwater contamination from other drilling fluids, air pollution, and even earthquakes. One aspect in particular is the sheer amount of water required for the process .
An average fracking well typically requires 3-8 million gallons of water every week. In 2008, the Marcellus Shale required 650 million gallons of water. Skytruth calculated that during the 20 month period between January 2011 and August 2012, the United States used at least 65.9 billion gallons of water to frack for oil and gas. France and Bulgaria have banned fracking because of the water consumption. Other countries, such as Australia, are fighting against it. However, in America, fracking is a procedure that is very alive and well, especially in the recent boomtown oil fields of western North Dakota.
Proponents of fracking will often cite other examples of large water consumption in effort to “put into context” the notion that fracking doesn’t actually use that much water . Well, maybe… but, here is another way of looking at it. It’s estimated that the average adult should consume about 64 oz. of water a day, or 182.5 gallons a year. If the water used for fracking, in the United States alone, during the previously mentioned 20 month period, was diverted to those who do not have water, it wouldn’t completely solve the world’s water problems, but it could satisfy well over 300 million people, and that’s a good start.
- Food & Water Watch. Water facts.
- Amanda Mascarelli. Demand for water outstrips supply. International Weekly Journal of Science. 2012 August 8.
- Wenonah Hauter. New groundwater study exposes deep folly of fracking. Common Dreams. 2012 August 10.
- Ian Urbina. A tainted water well, and concern there may be more. The New York Times. 2011 August 3.
- Willi West. How much water is used by fracking. Go N=Marcellus Shale. 2012 February 21.