California may have lots of groundwater, but is it threatened by oil and gas drilling and fracking?
A study released this week by Stanford scientists shows that there is nearly three times more groundwater in California’s Central Valley than earlier surveys had indicated.
“It’s not often that you find a ‘water windfall,’ but we just did,” study co-author Robert Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor at Stanford, said in the study’s release. “There’s far more fresh water and usable water than we expected.”
Jackson and his research partner looked at deep groundwater aquifers, between 1,000 and 3,000 feet below the surface. This water was not previously thought of as usable water, but as technology has improved, so has our ability to tap underground reservoirs.
The Central Valley, the bread-and-vegetable basket of the nation, produces a quarter of the United States’ food. Agriculture, which uses 80 percent of the state’s water resources, has been hit hard by the ongoing drought. Less rainfall means farmers need to use more ground and surface water.
But the Central Valley doesn’t only produce food. There are also thousands of oil and gas wells in the region, which stretches from just north of Los Angeles up past Sacramento. And this is where things get tricky.
Nearly one out of every three oil or gas wells in California is drilled directly into a usable freshwater source, the study showed. In fact, oil and gas drilling is happening in 30 percent of the aquifers with deep groundwater resources.
“We don’t know what effect oil and gas activity has had on groundwater resources, and one reason to highlight this intersection is to consider if we need additional safeguards on this water,” said Jackson.
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In a former life I reviewed air pollution permits for oil and gas facilities. You would be AMAZED at how many holes have been drilled into the ground and how many of them go right through our drinking water aquifers.
Every well casing is a potential leak site which will exist FOREVER, and even if 99.99% of them never leak (an unrealistically high percentage) they all gravely threaten our most precious resource - water.
So enjoy your cheap gas while you can. Eventually the price you pay for uncontaminated water will more than compensate for the free ride you're getting now.