Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Water- Fiji and Ozark

A couple of interesting water stories crossed my screen.  For a change, they are positive... at least a little bit.

Fiji Water- Inhabitat.com
First, from our friends at JRBP- that's James River Basin Partnership for you non-Springfieldians.  Here is a very entertaininng way to understand how we started getting bathed in bottle water ads.  Spend a couple of minutes watching the entertaining http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/.

Next, there has been a lot of interesting discussion of hydraulic fracturing, lovingly referred to as "fracking".  CNN reports that the New York State Legislature has passed a limited ban on this controversial method of drilling for natural gas.  It goes to their Governor for signature within the week.

Fracking area in Arkansas
Fracking is the use of millions of gallons of high pressure water and chemicals pumped deep underground to hydraulically fracture (break up) rock and force oil or especially natural gas into a production well.  This process has been around for 60 years, but has dramatically increased in use due to the development of shale natural gas formations and the switch to lower cost water based formulations as is being used in the shale formations in north central Arkansas.  (If you are thoroughly familiar with fracking, you can stop reading here.  If not go to this excellent video which shows how fracking is done.) 

So what is the fracking problem?  That is the problem.  We don't know yet what all the problems are and how serious they can be, yet its use is expanding in our region.  In other words, studies are underway and we are part of the experiment.  The quotes below are from David Casaletto in the November Ozarks Water Watch.
  1. "Millions of gallons of water are being injected deep into the earth under the drinking water formations. The water that does not return to the surface is being removed from the water cycle."  (This is of concern in the Ozarks where we are involved in studying solutions to the rapidly declining water resources in the Joplin area.  A cynic might say that the last thing we need is to pump available water underground and out of reach.)
  2. "The water that returns to the surface is polluted with drilling chemicals and natural pollutants."  We don't even know what all of these pollutants are and do not have the facilities to remove them even if we did.  Want your own free source of methane in your well water?  Watch this CNN News story from Pennsylvania.
  3. " Contamination of drinking water: As we know from the Gulf oil spill, accidents do happen. The wells have to be cased completely through all the drinking water formations to prevent drilling chemicals from mixing with drinking water. If the casing fails, contamination could occur."
  4. Earthquakes are a potential concern.  While no official position has been taken on this, fracking deliberately cracks rock formations deep in the earth and Mother Nature may not like it.  There is anecdotal evidence in Arkansas* and other sites (see Oilprice.com) that earthquakes can result.  Since there is a normal background rate of earth tremors, it is hard to prove or disprove the association with fracking.  Kind of a roll of the dice with our planet.
An excellent video shows how fracking is done.
More detailed information is available through Wikipedia.
See the November 29 Ozarks Water Watch for details.

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