When it rains, it pours, so they say, but pouring rain is not exactly what you want in a drought. The big storm that hit the parched American Southwest at the end of February only scratched the surface of the problem. The land is far too dry and hard-packed to absorb the deluge; instead of recharging the earth, much of the water bounced off the dirt, turning into wasted runoff and even flash floods.
These dry lands are dryer than they would otherwise be because of global warming-driven climate change. As it turns out, its not just the burning of oil, gas, and coal that's accelerating the loss of available freshwater, but also the drilling for two of the fuels themselves. A report by Ceres, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainability, found that almost half of the wells that were dug between January 2011 and May 2013 to hydraulically fracture (or "frack") shale rock to extract natural gas and "tight" oil were located in regions with "high or extremely high water stress," and more than half (55 percent) were in areas experiencing droughts. For California and Colorado, almost every single new well was drilled in a high or extremely high stress area. This is important because, as the name suggests, the hydraulic fracturing process requires millions of gallons of water per well. Even if that water is trucked in from somewhere else and even if it gets recycled or stays underground, the water used in the fracking process may still end up tainting local water sources with carcinogens, methane, or naturally-occurring toxins like radium and bromides that are brought up to the surface.
Read the full article on The American Prospect.