Fracking vs. Watering Lawns: The Real Guzzler of Water
BY ED IRELAND, PH.D., BARNETT SHALE ENERGY EDUCATION COUNCIL, AUGUST 23, 2013
In the last 65 years, the technology behind hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has been improved to the point that it is used to complete virtually every oil and natural gas well in the United States. Without fracking, the U.S. would not be able to access its vast bounty of oil and natural gas contained in shale deposits.
Unfortunately, some environmental groups have alleged that fracking should be stopped for a variety of reasons. Some of these activists are so hyper-focused on hydraulic fracturing that they even call themselves "fractivists."
One objection of fractivists is that fracking uses too much water; however, the oil and gas industry uses less water than any other category, according to data from the Texas Water Development Board. In their 2011 Water Use Survey, which was updated in 2013 and is the most current report, the Texas Water Development Board found that the oil and gas industry uses only 1 percent of the water in Texas. (Oil and gas is listed under "mining" in the report.)
In fact, irrigation is the biggest user of water in Texas, accounting for 61 percent. Municipal use follows with 27 percent, then manufacturing at 6 percent, steam electric power at 3 percent and livestock at 2 percent. The last 1 percent is made up of oil and gas and other mining activities.
Rusty Todd, a business journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, recently reported in The Wall Street Journal that the Texas Water Development Board "found that on average about 31% of residential water consumed in the state is used outside homes." Todd continues: "In 2010, that amounted to 495 billion gallons. In 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, fracking accounted for about 26.6 billion gallons statewide. So in Texas (a big state with arid regions) lawns consume roughly 18 times more water than fracking does."
Therefore, it is important to consider the results of these varying water uses. The water used for lawns is for a purely aesthetic result (if you're lucky): a greener lawn. The minimal amount of water used, in comparison, by the oil and gas industry results in many benefits for the nation: a domestic energy source for households across the U.S., less carbon dioxide emissions and lower heating and electric bills. Furthermore, shale oil and gas has made Texas the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the country, which in turn has made the state of Texas the leading job creator in the U.S. Opponents to fracking should take this into consideration when arguing that fracking uses too much water; it seems attention should be focused on other areas of water use that offer no benefit to the economy.