The fossil waters underlying the Great Plains, left over from the Pleistocene, are giving out. We done sucked ‘em dry. Any hydrologist could have told you it was in the works. We’ll see the end of fossil ground water pumping in the 21st century, whether we like it or not.
A fairly exhaustive accounting of the water embodied in various crop products in a 2011 paper by Mekonnen and Hoekstra. For each kg of rice, 14,000 liters of water. For each kg of beans, 5000 liters of water. Wow.
Union of Concerned Scientists gives an overview of how water is used in the generation of electricity. I came across this Op-Ed at the NYT that claimed more water is used for electricity than agriculture, and just could not believe it, but apparently if you look at surface water withdrawals, it’s true (power: 41%, ag: 37%). “Withdrawal” just means the water is taken from the river/lake/whatever. Usually most of it is put back (hotter), which means it can be used again for agriculture. In any case, the Texas grid came very close to shutting down 10% of its generation in 2011 because of the drought, right as it was experiencing its highest ever loads. Yet another fun climate-energy feedback.
Design Explorations of the Lower Colorado River, a landscape architecture course taught by a friend of mine at Cal Poly, in which the Colorado River is taken to be the primary client, and human needs are assumed to be real, but secondary. All we have left is gardening. We might as well do a good job of it!
(Fracking site close to Platteville, Colorado by Senator Mark Udall on Flickr)
With the introduction of the Halliburton Loophole in 2005 the Federal government largely abdicated its role in regulating the water quality impacts of oil and gas extraction. Local governments have been forced to step up, and communities in Colorado has been at the forefront of that effort. Routt County now requires stringent baseline water quality testing (PDF) before development can begin, and monthly re-testing during operations. The city of Longmont has banned all surface pits (PDF). The oil and gas industry is striking back against these efforts, with Colorado Senate Bill SB12-088 (PDF) which would preclude local governments from regulating oil and gas operations. If passed, this bill would slam the door on any potential regulation of fracking on our county open space lands.
A messy patchwork of different regulations in every little jurisdiction would be costly and legally dangerous for the oil and gas industry. The credible threat of such a patchwork is one of the few points of leverage we have, to get them to accept reasonable regulations at the state or national level.
If you’d like to retain the right to regulate — locally — the activities of these industries then please call and write the Senate Local Government Committee listed below. You may also attend and testify at the public hearing on the bill if you wish: Thursday, Feb. 16th at the Capitol Building, Senate Committee, Room 353, likely between 9:15 and 9:45am.
JOYCE FOSTER, Chair
Capitol Phone: 303-866-4875
JEANNE NICHOLSON, Vice Chair
Capitol Phone: 303-866-4873
IRENE AGUILAR, MD
Capitol Phone: 303-866-4852
Capitol Phone: 303-866-4859
Capitol Phone: 303-866-4884