Drillers and Frackers Use Our Water & Spoil Our Water; They Should Pay For It

by Duane Nichols on August 29, 2015

“Make gas drillers pay for using, ruining water”

Letter to the Editor, Morgantown Dominion Post, Page 6-A, August 27, 2015

The 2000 Water Resources Group (a public-private partnership that assists government water officials) predicts that water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent in 15 years.  We are fortunate to live in a state with a plentiful supply.  By comparison, California is in its fourth year of a drought and water rationing is the law.

While our supply is abundant, we cannot take this resource for granted.  With our climate in flux, we should be doing everything we can to protect and preserve our water resources.  According to the West Virginia Water Resources Protection Act, “The waters of the State of West Virginia are claimed as valuable public natural resources held by the State for the use and benefit of its citizens.”  Citizens – that’s us.

So what are we doing with our plentiful and precious water? Besides drinking and recreating in it, we give it away to industry.  Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales is a water-intensive process.  Every time one of these wells is drilled and fracked, an average of 4 million gallons of water is used.

With approximately 1,200 active wells and more than 3,000 permitted, the gas industry needs a lot of water.  Environment America (a federation of state-based environmental advocacy organizations) estimates that West Virginia has used 17 billion gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing from 2005 – 2013.

In most cases, this water is sucked right out of our rivers and streams.  There are about 155 water withdrawal sites permitted in West Virginia. The water is mixed with a cocktail of chemicals and pumped underground to fracture the shale and permit the escape of natural gas.

Once a gas well has been drilled, the water resurfaces essentially as industrial waste.  This water is too polluted to return it to the rivers and streams from which it was taken.  So instead this toxic water is disposed of in underground injection wells in many cases.

Whey is the natural gas industry allowed to waste our water? These companies do not pay a cent for taking this water from our rivers and streams and ruining it.  It’s only fair that these companies compensate us for its use.  West Virginia citizens should not be required to give away such a vital resource to enhance the profits of gas companies.

It’s time for gas drillers and frackers to pay – even a very modest amount – for the water they take from West Virginians.  You want it? You use it? You spoil it? You should pay for it.

>>> Jim Sconyers, West Virginia Sierra Club, Terra Alta, Preston County, WV

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