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Fracking or Golfing: Who Needs More Water?

by Christina Larson

Among the many myths being spread around about fracking, the one about water consumption may be the most audacious one. Anti-fracking activists keep insisting that the process of hydraulic fracturing is threatening the water supplies in the West.

This myth may grow legs in a drought-stricken state like California, but that does not mean it is true. On the contrary, a study commissioned by the Western Energy Alliance found that fracking in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming uses far less water than other users.

The oil and gas industry in total (not just hydraulic fracturing) accounts for only 1 percent of the water consumption in these three states. Mining and power generation are larger users than the oil and gas industry, but the largest water user is – no surprise – agriculture and other irrigation activities.

Wyoming water usage is tracked by river basin. The volume used for oil and natural gas development for each river basin in our state looks like this:

  • ·      Bear River Basin: 0.05%
  • ·      Green River Basin: 0.3%
  • ·      Northeast River Basin: 4.9%
  • ·      Platte River Basin: 1.2%
  • ·      Powder/Tongue River Basin: 9%
  • ·      Snake/Salt River Basin: 0%
  • ·      Wind/Bighorn River Basin: 0%

Compare this to the share used for irrigation:

  • ·      Bear: 99%
  • ·      Green: 83%
  • ·      Northeast: 72%
  • ·      Platte: 93%
  • ·      Powder/Tongue: 83%
  • ·      Snake/Salt: 98%
  • ·      Wind/Bighorn: 96%

 This is not to say that agriculture and other irrigation is a bad thing, or that water usage in the West is not an issue. But when the environmentalist industry starts talking about hydraulic fracturing depleting our water supply, it’s groundless propaganda.

Myths do not become facts just because you dilute them with water.

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