“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”
Ben Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac 1733
Water is the most valuable resource on earth and without it life as we know it would be impossible. We are extremely lucky in the Catskills to have some of the purest, uncontaminated water on the planet. But all that could change if fracking comes to New York State. Our abundance contrasts sharply with the growing shortages of usable water in many parts of our country and the world.
The current headlines are already giving us a preview of what the “fight” for clean water will look like.
At this year’s auction of surplus water by the Northern Water Conservancy District in Colorado, companies that provide water for hydraulic fracturing at well sites outbid farmers who normally “buy” the excess water that is diverted from the Colorado River Basin. In addition to farmers not getting the water they need, the water that will be used for fracking is lost from the hydrological cycle forever. Gary Wockner, director of the Save the Poudre Coalition devoted to protecting the Cache la Poudre River said, “Any transfer of water from rivers and farms to drilling and fracking will negatively impact Colorado’s environment and wildlife.” The waste fluid that flows back from fracking will never be returned in any meaningful way to the aquifers, rivers, lakes and streams from which it was taken.
Hydraulic fracturing is negatively impacting the long drought in Texas. Even though 2011 was recorded as the driest year in state history, millions and millions of gallons of water were diverted from agriculture for fracking. The Huffington Post reported that the Texas drought cost $2 billion more than previously thought.
In the likely scenario that our national water situation grows worse, our pristine water supply could become an economic engine for our area, as people and companies look for water that they can’t find in other places. Our uncontaminated water has the potential to create long-term jobs and profits that could dwarf the short-term profits that some will experience from fracking.
But this economic potential will never be realized if we let fracking contaminate our water.
Based on extensive study and scientific evidence, Catskill Mountainkeeper has called for a ban on fracking. We are also working within the existing regulatory process in New York to raise critical issues, widen the discussion of the impacts of drilling, and expand the options available to protect the public.