The Hundred Year Drought In Texas

Posted By on June 13, 2011

We’ve just had 100 year floods, now it looks like we have the 100 year drought………About 94 percent of Texas was in a state of severe, extreme or exceptional drought as of June 7, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor compiled by the U.S. Agriculture Department and the National Drought Mitigation Center. The October-through-May period was the state’s driest since record-keeping began in 1895, said Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

It’s the worst Texas drought since record-keeping began 116 years ago, it may change the oil and natural- gas drilling boom because of rationed water supplies crucial to energy exploration.

In the hardest-hit areas, water-management districts are warning residents and businesses to curtail usage from rivers, lakes and aquifers. The shortage is forcing oil companies to go farther afield to buy water from farmers, irrigation districts and municipalities, said Erasmo Yarrito Jr., the state’s overseer of water supplies from the Rio Grande River.

Concern over water usage is especially acute in southern Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale area because drilling there is more water-intensive than other regions, said Robert Mace, a deputy executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board.

The water crisis in Texas, the biggest oil- and gas- producing state in the U.S., highlights a continuing debate in North America and Europe over the impact on water supplies of an oil and gas production technique called hydraulic fracturing. Environmental groups are concerned the so-called fracking method may pose a contamination threat, while farmers in arid regions like south Texas face growing competition for scarce water.

Along the Rio Grande River, where border towns such as Laredo supply workers and equipment for the drilling boom, most areas have received less than 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain since Oct. 1, the National Weather Service said.

Farmers, landowners, environmental activists and state oil industry regulators gathered on June 10 at the University of Texas Health Center in Laredo to discuss the potential impact of fracking on water, air and public health, one of several such meetings that have been held across the state this year.

13 Million Gallons

The Eagle Ford’s peculiar geology means it takes three to four times as much water to fracture as the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, said Mace, of the state water board. Fracking a single Eagle Ford well requires as much as 13 million gallons of water, enough to supply the cooking, washing and drinking needs of 40 adults for an entire year, he said.

“This is not the drilling your grandparents knew in west Texas,” said Sharon Wilson, an organizer for Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project, which lobbies for tougher government regulation of oil drillers. “It’s a heavy industrial activity with massive amounts of water and chemicals.”

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