....Started as a comment on a diary that's now inaccessible. Forgive the depth, but I won't apologize for the number of links. They're there to show what's going on, not just to puff up overseas-based spotty, behindhand 'coverage'.
The oil patch is an exception, especially with fracking. It's a big deal in non-Gee-Oh-Pee media right now, but Barnhart's headline water shortage took place at the beginning of June. Some background on the town of Barnhart is here.
But as is typical of the oil-boosting /pro-big-money cheerleading WSJ, no mention's made of the (inevitable, in oilpatch country) coming bust to follow the 'boom'. Will there be one? Does the sun come up in the East, and do Exxon-Mobil and BP have lobbyists? (Just wait. It'll look like The Grapes of Wrath. I remember the bust in '88 in Big Spring. Suddenly-single moms with small kids, surviving in cabover campers guys Arbusto'd laid off left behind when they took the pickups to new jobs somewhere else, since the Olney Savings and Loan crisis had taken away all their houses. Y'all have no idea what harm the Bush family has done, really, in its relentless pursuit of money and power....)
Back to Barnhart's catastrophic influx of fracking-related oilfield water use: Beaumont's a refinery town on the Gulf Coast -- clean across Texas from Barnhart. Oil comes to them in tanker trucks to keep the plants running from Texas' oil fields far to the west and north, as well as in sea-going tankers from the Middle East. Their paper had this to say; and finally here's a piece at Mother Jones, which may / may not have been part of The Guardian's coverage.
Water shortages involve waste on scales that ought to shame anybody with a working brain -- and in the Permian Basin, which is a desert country anyway, those shortages are the more shameful for the waste involved. Can you hear me now, Randy Neugebauer, John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz? Oh, wait ... working brain ... lets out the (warning: PDF) Texas State Supreme Court, too. Farmers like Dawdy we might outlast. Lawyers and legal precedents are, like corporations, forever. Zombies, lying in ambush against our futures.
But Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry—and nor is the drought. The latest shocks to the water system come after decades of overuse by ranchers, cotton farmers, and fast-growing thirsty cities.Meanwhile, in the wet part of Texas, Spicewood Beach ran out of water in 2012 and it's not fixed yet. Between the drought, big ag, summertime in Texas, climate change, and big oil, there's just flat not enough water. Or maybe there's a different problem: we're wasting too much water, 'cause we refuse to recognize what a limited resource it is.
"We have large urban centers 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," she said. And then there is climate change.
West Texas has a long history of recurring drought, but under climate change, the Southwest has been experiencing record-breaking heat waves, further drying out the soil and speeding the evaporation of water in lakes and reservoirs. Underground aquifers failed to regenerate. "What happens is that climate change comes on top and in many cases it can be the final straw that breaks the camel's back, but the camel is already overloaded," said Hayhoe.
An explosion in oil field activity has caused what used to be a 65-family community to quadruple in the past eight months, Baumann said.Anybody who's ever been around an oil boom knows this worker-influx is typical.It's a lot like the Old West: go there and exist 'til you can afford to send for the family. Jobs -- maybe especially in the Permian Basin, the oilpatch I grew up around -- like these are physically demanding, working conditions often filthy and dangerous, and the "play" in an oilfield by its very nature temporary. During the boom, though, the money runs like ... water. That's why it's a boom-and-bust cycle, and that's why there's a "gold rush" effect. Steadier kinds of mining -- salt, coal, lead, silver, potash -- also use/destroy water. But the oil patch is a greedy consumer when it comes to water. "Get all you can now 'cause it won't last." That's how the oilpatch works. Over the big orange gas flare for more ...
Mobile homes and recreational vehicles have been appearing all over Barnhart, Avery said, with five to 12 mobile homes hooking up to meters designed to supply one household.
The older well, which would provide a temporary reprieve, has been used to fill firetrucks for the Barnhart Volunteer Fire Department in recent years because the TCEQ said its water could not be used for human consumption.
A picture with that Standard-Times article notes a nearby "freshwater sales" well is keeping right on going despite the threat to the town. Oil patch economics are like that: make all the money you can today, 'cause tomorrow there'll be nothing left.
Barnhart Fire Chief Jimmy Baker's crews are drinking bottled water. In June the reserve tank for firefighting remained full, but this is August, and it's Texas, and it's a dry summer. The Texas Tribune wrote a good piece when the news was fresh: http://www.texastribune.org/...
The residents of Barnhart are “pretty P.O.'d” about the water situation, Baker said.TCEQ more than likely okayed Barnhart's using that old well until the new one comes in: there's no other source. It's not just Barnhart, either, or Spicewood Beach. Lake Meredith used to be the primary water supply for where I live. Now it's dry. That watershed may not ever come back to a point it can support Meredith and / or Lake MacKenzie.
Nanny said that the town was considering the possibility of getting a tank of freshwater from San Angelo, which is 50 miles away. Private wells were still supplying some water, he said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement saying it had learned of the problem on Wednesday.
San Angelo's Elmer Kelton's (thanks! don't know how that happened, grubber; I dislike Leonard's writing immensely, and Tommy Lee Jones did a fine movie of one of Elmer Kelton's books a few years ago besides) home range. You might've heard of him. He wrote a book called "The Time It Never Rained." That's how it is in West Texas. Year before last, where I live, we had less than six inches of rain all year long. Record dry weather for us. Last year we were back up over nine inches, and this year we're only three inches below normal. West of here's the Chihuahuan Desert, which is also South of here: New Mexico, Old Mexico, the Big Bend, and El Paso are all part of that. We get a little of the Sonoran desert's influence and a lot of the Great Plains weather trends where I live.
In the 1980s, when I went to Tech, we had a lot of students from the Middle East (and Israel was not the least-represented country there) studying effective ways to use and conserve water in arid and semi-arid lands, not just with engineering and irrigation advances through the engineering schools but in other ways being pioneered at ICASALS. I've always thought the Israelis had something special going in their ability to "make the desert bloom" without destroying the underground water supply (something Texas' cotton-crazy ag industry, which is now growing corn, of all stupid things to plant at the intersection of deserts, demonstrably could NOT do, having destroyed Pecos' river, Fort Stockton's Comanche Springs, and Big Spring -- and threatening the ones that fill the Balmorhea cienega and pools).
If you've ever lived in an oil patch, with or without fracking -- and the kind I know is the old-school Permian Basin "injection well" kind, where they pump Hydrogen Sulfide Gas back down into the ground to force out the oil (this is a poison gas, by the way); if Fishgrease stops in, ask him about these sorts of operations -- you know that by its very nature the oil field destroys the water. Out of the tap even when you can't light it on fire, it smells like rotten eggs. The taste is worse, and it ruins anything you cook with it. It's SOP in West Texas for restaurants to advertise the use of RO water in their tea and coffee (and some convenience stores show off what water purification system they use in their soda machines -- n.b.: don't buy coffee at a gas station in Odessa just before the Interstate-20 West on-ramp. It'll taste just like sulfur). I saw RO signs in Baytown last October too ... we've got to do better, folks. Texas is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, and even the Feds know it. Save the water: move off fossil fuels.
The oil patch wastes a lot of water. Slush pits. Fracking fluid. Injection wells. It also destroys people's water wells even when it doesn't suck the water straight out of them. You'll hear oil companies say seismic testing's safe. So is flying to the moon, except when something goes wrong. That's not even touching on the collapses of wells impacted by percolation or wells that sometimes wind up swallowed by sinkholes, the saline infiltration or other leaks into the wells that result in contamination (even the seismic tests can open up subsurface inlets to things like your neighbor's septic tank), or partial collapses when the hydrostatic situation underground changes. The Permian Basin oilfield underlies a desert country anyhow, running from roughly the Edwards Plateau edges in Texas out into New Mexico.
Back to the reasons we're running out of water: the one we can't fix is the weather, because a persistent La Nina means West Texas will be dry. An El Nino will flood us. But we're in the La Nina pattern, like the one we were in during the "record drought" of the 1950s.
Fixing all the ones we can -- not just in Texas -- is really up to us. If we don't save the water, we've got nothing. Literally. It won't matter who we elect, or prosecute -- or for what -- if there's no water.