The Texas Fracking Dust Bowl
The chickens have come home to roost as fracking has burned Texas to a crisp. They forgot you need water to live. In the town of Barnhart, Texas, residents are realizing the devastating impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The town has run out of water.
Advances in hydraulic fracturing and drilling technology over the past decade have made it easier for the oil and gas industry to extract large quantities of oil and natural gas from shale and rock formations across the US. But the process, in addition to potentially polluting water supplies, also utilizes massive amounts of fresh water.
These exorbitant amounts of fresh water are mixed with a cocktail of toxic chemicals and pumped deep into the ground to cause fissures through which natural gas can escape and be collected. By this process, the large amounts of fresh water used by fracking companies become massive amounts of wastewater, which is then pumped deep into underground disposal wells.
The process requires between 1-8 million gallons of waters, and a well can be fracked up to 18 times. For oil rich states like Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, water usage is a serious concern. Now some towns in Texas are seeing that concern become reality.
“The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,” resident Beverly McGuire told The Guardian.
McGuire saw warning signs before the town’s water supplies were depleted: sand in the toilet bowl, air sputtering out of the tap. Then, last month, she turned on the tap and nothing came out.
Three years of drought, a warming climate, and the natural gas industry’s demand for massive amounts of fresh water to conduct their fracking process have taken a devastating toll on reservoirs and aquifers. In Texas, as many as 30 communities could run out of water by the end of this year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Fracking operations account for more than 20 percent of water used in some counties in Texas, and 51 percent of wells in Texas are found in high or extremely high water-stressed locations. A study released in May found that competition for water in oil-rich and water-stressed states is a very real concern that should be addressed by the oil and gas industry.
About two years ago, the first fracking trucks arrived in McGuire’s hometown of Barnhart. Shortly afterwards, the well on her property ran dry so she connected to the town’s central water supply. “Everyone just said, ‘too bad.’ Well now it’s all going dry,” she said in the interview.
Because of water rationing and a large portion of water being overtaken by the gas industry, local ranchers were unable to feed and water their herds, farmers lost their crops, and, now, Barnhart’s water supply has been exhausted.
Another Barnhart resident told The Guardian, “The state is mandating our water system to conserve water but why? … Getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day.”