Today, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the State of California. While the details of what this declaration will entail for state water policy remain murky, one thing that should have been included is abundantly clear. If the Governor were to be truly serious about protecting Californians struggling with the drought, he would put a halt to fracking in the state immediately.
The drought in California is in many ways a terrifying look at what a climate changed future for the state could entail. 2013 was officially declared the driest year in California’s history. The first snowpack analysis of this winter concluded that the state’s snowpack was at 20% of normal, equaling a record low set only a couple years ago. The image comparing snowpacks between last year (a mediocre snow year) and this year from NOAA below puts the situation in stark relief:
Fracking for oil or gas is an inherently water-intensive process. A couple quick facts on fracking and water in California:
- Water usage estimates range from 2 to 10 million gallons of water for every fracked well.
- Each fracking well starts with some 2 million gallons of water for an initial injection.
- Taking an average nearly 5 million gallons of water would mean that if all the potential wells identified by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in California were to be fracked, it would require some 200 billion gallons of water.
And of course, aside from taking valuable water out of the system for use by Big Oil companies, fracking for oil is simply counter to any attempts at addressing climate change. The International Energy Agency has concluded that some two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Monterey oil that Big Oil is hoping to frack is largely unproven, meaning it should be entirely off-limits from a climate perspective.
Governor Brown talks a big game on climate change. But when it comes to standing up to Big Oil and actually paying heed to what the science is telling us, the Governor comes up far short. Allowing fracking to continue in the state is simply denying the facts of climate change, and ignoring the troubling reality of drought in our state.
It’s time the Governor stood up for the people in his state, truly protected the ever-scarcer water resources our communities and farmers need, and stop fracking immediately.