Release: Monday, February 6, 2012 For More Information: Ken Kramer
Statement of Teresa Carrillo:
South Texas Oil and Gas Boom Grows, So Do Water
– By Teresa Carrillo, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club
(Austin) One of our nation’s founding fathers, Ben Franklin,
once observed: “When the well’s
dry, we know the worth of water.”
Those words ring true here in
semi-arid South Texas, now more than ever. After suffering
through the hottest and driest summer on record much of South
Texas remains classified as being in “exceptional drought,” having
received only a tiny fraction of the average annual rainfall.
And still, relief may not be on the way. Our state’s
climatologist has predicted the La Nina pattern will linger
until 2020, leaving Texas to face the hateful specter of
a new “Drought of Record.”
Many of the same South Texas counties blistered and burned
by the continuing drought are also experiencing perhaps the
greatest economic boom of the last 75 years, thanks to a
surge in petroleum drilling and production across the Eagle
Ford Shale formation. A break-through process using a combination
of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling
has made this “Texas Tea” gold-rush possible.
Ironically enough for thirsty Texas,
the hydraulic fracturing process requires millions of gallons
of water to bring a well on line and extract the hydrocarbon
product. Multiply that times thousands of new wells, add
in a devastating drought, competing water demands, and what’s the answer? The
answer is – no one really knows what the full effects
to the water supply will be from this conglomeration of drought
Last week the Texas Railroad Commission issued a press release
stating that the water supply in the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer
in South Texas is sufficient to supply the oil and gas industry
activities in the Eagle Ford Shale, and all other users.
The press release further stated that this issue had been
studied by its Eagle Ford Shale Task Force. In fact, Commissioner
Porter characterized it as “exhaustive research.”
Being on the Task Force myself, I don’t recall it that
way. I recall hearing reports, not studies, from speakers
who discussed the effects of hydraulic fracturing on the
water supply. Our speakers were the manager of the local
groundwater conservation district, a geologist whose land
is also being drilled by Chesapeake, a representative from
Conoco-Philips, and representative of a firm seeking to recycle
water used in the fracking process.
While these reports contained good information, which we
were glad to receive, they were not in fact scientifically
designed original studies with a methodology, data collection,
and results subjected to statistical analysis, all peer reviewed.
To create an accurate picture of the full impacts of hydraulic
fracturing on the local water supply in South Texas we need
an objective, scientific study conducted by a respected academic
team to find the answer this question – what is happening
to the water supply from these new demands and the drought?
A preliminary report done by the U.T. Bureau of Economic
Geology under contract to the Texas Water Development Board
to evaluate and project water use in fracking and other mining
operations raises some concerns. While the study indicated
that fracking and overall mining water use constitute less
than one percent of total water use in the state, the report
noted that the percentage of water use for fracking in local
areas can be much larger and that the use of water fracking
is expected to increase significantly.
These concerns need to be further explored
with a comprehensive study that probes these issues in more
depth. If that study reveals that the water supply is adequate
for all users, including the hydraulic fracturing industry – great.
But let’s find the answer by commissioning a study
that examines all the data. And let’s do it now, lest
we live in regret should harm come to our beautiful Texas
natural resources and the strong Texas people who rely on
them for the very fabric of their lives.
There are cities and towns in Texas that are literally running
out of water. Small cities and towns in the Eagle Ford Shale
region are stretched to provide water, housing, electricity,
and services to the burgeoning populations. While the industry
has made strides to reduce its water use, and the Railroad
Commission, especially Railroad Commissioner Porter, deserves
credit for opening the dialogue on this serious issue, we
owe it to all Texans to examine the water supply and competing
demands with an open mind seeking to find the truth.
Teresa Carrillo is a member of the executive committee of
the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and also serves
as a member of the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force established
by Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter.