Fracking one natural gas well “typically is the equivalent of three to six Olympic swimming pools”, or so says the American Petroleum Institute (API). However, a new report published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) exposed that statement for what it is – rubbish! The report, titled Monster Wells, analyzed data from the industry-operated website FracFocus.org, acquired by Skytruth.org, and showed that between April 2010 and December 2013 there were 261 wells that used at least 10 million gallons of water each.
These “monster wells” are the fully-grown, plasma-breathing and city-trashing Godzilla stacked in the oil industry’s room. They use more than 3.3 billion (yes, billions with a BIG B!) gallons of water for their operations, and about two-thirds them, amassing to a grand total of 2.1 billion gallons of water, were drilled in areas beset by drought or abnormally dry conditions. Overall, 137 monster wells were identified in locations experiencing drought, and in some of these areas fracking accounts for up to 25% of all water use.
I don’t know about you, but my immediate reaction to this is: How is it possible!? How is it allowed!?!?!? In these areas, water prices soar; crops wilt; and people die! Yet the industry uses more than four times the amount of water it claims to use to frack and pollute the environment. The county of Irion in Texas is smack in the middle of one of the most severely draught-affected areas in the nation, yet Monster Wells identified it as the county with the largest number of monster wells in the nation!
In Texas, the municipal water supply of the town of Barnhart ran dry in August 2013 after hundreds of water wells were drilled to supply fracking operations. In Pennsylvania, 17 water withdrawal permits were suspended to protect users from possible fracking contamination. In Colorado, oil and gas drillers are outbidding farmers at water auctions and depriving them from the resource needed to grow their crops. All of these stats coincide with the locations of the biggest monster wells in the nation, with Texas; Colorado; and Pennsylvania alone having 12 of the 17 largest wells in the nation.
And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. FracFocus.org is a voluntary reporting system so thousands of wells across the nation do not care to report to it. Hidden in some remote (and probably drought-stricken) area may be wells of even greater gargantuan proportions than the ones analyzed in this report. The truth is that we have only seen the tail of the Godzilla in the oil and gas industry’s room. Let us just hope that by the time we realize the monster before us, it won’t be too late.