Drought Dangers: Frackers in Colorado Will Have Plenty of Water But Farmers May Go Without


More upside down priorities from the western fracking front. In drought-struck Colorado, oil and gas companies will have plenty of water for their fracking operations this summer, but farmers may not have enough to irrigate their crops.

It seems our insatiable thirst for fossil fuel is now even trumping our most basic need for food. Can you eat natural gas?

Consider this from an April 2 Denver Post report by Bruce Finley:

Front Range farmers bidding for water to grow crops through the coming hot summer and possible drought face new competition from oil and gas drillers.

At Colorado’s premier auction for unallocated water this spring, companies that provide water for hydraulic fracturing at well sites were top bidders on supplies once claimed exclusively by farmers.

The prospect of tussling with energy industry giants over water leaves some farmers and environmentalists uneasy.

“What impact to our environment and our agricultural heritage are Coloradans willing to stomach for drilling and fracking?” said Gary Wockner, director of the Save the Poudre Coalition, devoted to protecting the Cache la Poudre River.

“Farm water grows crops, but it also often supports wildlife, wetlands and stream flows back to our rivers. Most drilling and fracking water is lost from the hydrological cycle forever,” Wockner said. “Any transfer of water from rivers and farms to drilling and fracking will negatively impact Colorado’s environment and wildlife.”

So in addition to poisoning our drinking water and polluting our rivers and streams, fracking is also drawing down water supplies to the point of threatening crop irrigation, and by extension, domestic food supplies.

Fracking uses enormous amounts of water. A typical Barnett Shale gas well takes from 3 to 9 million gallons of water to frack. That’s per well! According to EPA estimates, water use for fracking operations nationwide was 70 billion to 140 billion gallons in 2010. With nearly 98 percent of Colorado already in the grips of a severe drought, farmers, environmentalists and public officials are growing increasingly concerned.

More from the Denver Post:

“How do we continue to sustain agriculture when there’s just more and more demand on our water resources in this state?” said Bill Midcap, director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which represents 22,000 producers in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.

“The governor has said agriculture is helping Colorado come out of this recession. How do we keep those dollars flowing from agriculture into the state economy with more and more stress on our resources – such as water?”

Energy industry players “carry a big stick” at auctions and likely have the money to prevail in a free-market competition for scarce water, Midcap said.

The money is not insignificant. Increased demand for water has driven prices up, leaving cash-strapped farmers and their crops hanging in the balance.

More from Mr. Finley’s Denver Post report:

At the recent auction, Fort Lupton-based A & W Water Service Inc. bid successfully for 1,500 acre-feet of water, paying about $35 per acre-foot. That’s slightly higher than the market price that irrigators pay for leasing water along the Front Range. The average price paid for water at NWCD’s auctions has increased from around $22 an acre-foot in 2010 to $28 this year.

A & W also leases water from Longmont, Loveland, Greeley and other cities – and hauls it to drilling sites.

As fracking continues to explode across the country, we are sure to see more fighting over dwindling water supplies as prices soar. Colorado’s water-shortage problem will eventually become a national problem. Farmers are only the first victims in this intensifying battle. More are sure to follow.

Read Bruce Finley’s full Denver Post report here: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_20306480/fracking-bidders-top-farmers-at-water-auction?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com#ixzz1rCEyaJNw

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • “I SOLD MY SOUL TO THE COMPANY STORE”! How important are those few minute jobs that they wave in our face as their reasoning to push this disaster upon us? I don’t understand how somethings can be so clear and yet others don’t see it at all. Thank you for these informative posts.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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