The old saw “To a thirsty man, water is more valuable than gold” has never been more true than it is today. As a tradable commodity over the past 10 years the S&P 500 Global Water index has outperformed the bellwether gold and energy indices. In fact, water outperformed the stock market in the same period, according to a story on CNN Money written by Patrick M. Sheridan April 24.
Water is not local, today’s glass of ice tea may have drifted over in a nimbus cloud from Hawaii, Alberta, maybe even Europe if the wind takes a nasty turn. And so it is that we should then think of water use as a global issue.
The developing world is making unprecedented technological advances and together with our outsourcing strategies foreign business is booming and so is water usage across the board.
Known as a “silent water crisis” demand may surpass supply as world weather patterns change and unabated water use continues. Agriculture, with the need for a vast water supply is first in line to face what may be an uncertain future.
As a wastewater professional, I am proud of my industry’s work as recyclers. I am also keenly sensitive to the abuse of our most precious resource, the same water that has been reused for billions of years.
But use of water is one thing, removal of water is an entirely different issue, and removal of water is exactly what fracking for natural gas does, permanently.
Industry experts predict 19,000 wells on the Ohio Utica Shale Play. One well fracking may conservatively remove 5 million gallons of water from our lakes, streams and aquifers, and it is not unusual for the amount to range from 8 to 11 million gallons per well. Add in the fact that a single well may be fracked up to 18 times and the numbers are staggering.
I am not sure that my calculator will process these figures but let’s give it a try. At 5 million gallons per well for 19,000 wells the total is 95 billion gallons. At 8 million gallons per well the total is152 billion gallons. 4 frack jobs per well?, 608 billion gallons.
Water removal varies, but you get the idea. There are several major shale plays through out the country, so keep multiplying.
Once the water is permanently removed we now have an equal amount of toxic waste to deal with. It may end up spilled, injected into unstable layers, spread on roads for dust control, yields very little revenue for the state, none for local governments and may very well come back to haunt us for years to come.
Southwestern states covet Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley water. Right now they are protected, but as the price of water rises on Wall Street, and more and more municipal water supplies are in the hands of private investors the game may change overnight and everyone, especially farmers should begin now to take action to stop it.