The Weekend Wonk: Lester Brown on the Emerging Battle for Water

August 17, 2012


Even if there wasn’t a problem with water contamination, deforestation, and noise and air pollution from fracking, the pro-drilling agenda would still be hit hard with an insurmountable roadblock—access to abundant water.

On June 28, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission suspended 37 separately approved water withdrawals for fracking due to localized streamflow levels dropping throughout the Susquehanna Basin in Pennsylvania and New York.

In Kansas, oil and gas drillers are running out of options due to the tenth driest July on record. Companies with dwindling access to water resources are resorting to paying farmers for what water they have left, or more, drilling their own water wells, digging ponds next to streams or trucking in water from places as far way as Pennsylvania, according to CNN Money.

Jeff Gordon, the CEO of Texas Coastal Energy Co. said, “That can cripple a drilling company, as lack of water can basically suspend operations.”

Fracking isn’t the only dirty energy industry that relies on water for its operations. On Aug. 12, Unit 2 of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut—which provides half of Connecticut’s power and 12 percent of New England’s—was shut down because the seawater used to cool the plant was too warm, according to the Hartford Courant.

In its 37-year history of operation, Unit 2 of the Millstone Power Station has never shut down due to excessively warm water. The power station, which draws its water from Long Island Sound, must cool its reactors with water no warmer than 75 degrees F, but following the hottest July on record, the water has been averaging 1.7 degrees F above the limit, according to the Hartford Courant.

According to a River Network report in June, electricity production by coalnuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than half of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers. This is more than any other economic sector, including agriculture, and occurs in an era when all other use sectors are reducing water withdrawals.

According to the report, more than a quarter of the water withdrawn by fossil-fuel power plants to cool their generators goes up in steam—the remainder carries pollutants and excess heat into rivers and waterways, causing fish kills and algae blooms.

Put in perspective, for every gallon of water used in an average household, five times more water (40,000 gallons each month) is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants.

Creating a sustainable relationship with the world’s freshwater resources is the most vital environmental issue facing us today. While scientists continue to work on creative uses of wastewater to stretch our resources farther—such as substitution, regeneration and reduction—a prevailing shift in attitude that values water over profits will ultimately be required to ensure the world’s population will have access to safe drinking water.


11 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Lester Brown on the Emerging Battle for Water”

  1. guylacrosse Says:

    I haven’t washed my car in months and have started taking fewer/shorter showers.

    The creek behind my house is almost bone dry. There are a few shallow pools left. There’s some running water when it rains but that quickly vaporizes in a day or two. In some places, the lakes are at record low levels and fish are gone.

  2. junkdrawer88 Says:

    How soon before the Great Lakes are seen as a source of water to irrigate the New Dust Bowl? Will we create one or more Aral Seas here?

    One Christmas, a Canadian friend gave me a copy of Canadian Bacon as a gag gift. I may give it back and say that documentaries are too depressing.

    • junkdrawer88 Says:

      It is an excellent video. And it addresses something I’ve wondered about:

      There are models that predict climate on an averaged basis and there are, of course, weather prediction models. But are there models that predict how AGW changes the weather from year-to-year. This video addresses just that.

  3. […] EcoWatch: Even if there wasn’t a problem with water contamination, deforestation, and noise and air pollution from fracking, the pro-drilling agenda would still be hit hard with an insurmountable r…  […]

  4. rayduray Says:

    The Real News Network features a short video on what life is like in one Egyptian village about 20 miles from Cairo where the water has not been delivered for a month:

    Compare to Manila, which was recently turned into a vadose version of Venice:

  5. rayduray Says:

    Keystone XL pipeline update. Amidst no media hoopla, the work begins:

    Protest movement takes shape on route from Cushing to Port Arthur:

  6. […] o abbattuti ,  i cavalli sono lasciati morire di  sete e di fame e le operazioni di fracking sospese perché manca […]

  7. […] EcoWatch: Even if there wasn’t a problem with water contamination, deforestation, and noise and air pollution from fracking, the pro-drilling agenda would still be hit hard with an insurmountable r…  […]

  8. Water contamination can’t be avoided because of fracking but GE has announced that they have the solution. They have the technology that’s energy efficient and decrease the chances of toxic waste spills. Here’s the link There are also There are also 3 ways to use little water in fracking through LPG fracturing, foam based fracturing and channel fracturing technology. I hope that helps so we can minimize water contamination with fracking.

    Please check out my blog if you can:

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