Tag Archives: Droughts

The Blame Has Shifted

drywell

Droughts have become an increasingly larger problem throughout the Southwest, than years before. Up until now, the blame was placed on global warming, increased consumption and decreased availability. Culpability is now being shifted to fracking.

While the reasons for fracking  make perfect sense and will help the US out of their dependency on foreign oil sources, the process itself is extremely water-intensive.  The high consumption rate has spelled trouble for towns throughout the Southwest.

A story out of Barnhart, Texas sums up the devastating effects of fracking.  Two years ago the town of Barnhart, Texas became the residence of large fracking companies, who began tapping into the city’s natural gas reserves. Shortly after they appeared, water began to vanish.

Residents in the town began noticing their own personal wells drying up after the frackers’ appearance, but they made no mind of it. Resident Beverly McGuire made note of her own well running dry, but simply ignored it and hooked up to the town’s central supply.

As opposed to complaining about their quickly decreasing water supply, the citizens of Barnhart simply adjusted their own lifestyles. Statewide water rationing became a norm for these people, forcing them to cut down on their daily consumption. This rationing not only killed trees and lawns, but it also has had devastating effects on the economic situation of Barnhart’s citizens. Ranchers who used to run 500 cattle and 8,000 goats had to dump most of their herds. No longer able to feed and water their herds, ranchers were forced to reduce their numbers. And while local businessmen and farmers were forced to downsize, the fracking and oil companies are taking as much water as their hearts desire.

At its worst, the citizens of Barnhart were forced to live without a single drop of water for five days. Fortunately, a local work crew was able to revive a local railway well and begin pumping water back in. Though functional for now, this solution is only temporary, and soon enough the town will be forced into another dry spell.

Barnhart is not the only town running dry. Communities all around the Southwest are preparing for the worst – and the worst is yet to come. Extreme measures are being taken to find water to sustain populations. San Angelo, Texas with a population of 100,000 had to dig an underground pipeline to retrieve water from a well more than 60 miles away.

Alone, droughts can be devastating. When paired with the process of fracking, it is merely impossible to predict what will happen next.

Droughts and Wildfires a Recipe for Disaster

wildfire

A drought has many causes.  High temperatures, too little rainfall causing dry lands, increased water demands and water shortages are more or less the perfect storm contributing to droughts.

This past summer has been the absolute worst for the western states, with most of California, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico experiencing drought conditions that range from “severe” to “exceptional” for months at a time.

Droughts become more frequent and longer lasting driving some states to put limitations on their water usage. Over the last two months, 85% of the western states have had to force nearly 15 million people to live under water rationing while thirty communities in Texas predict that they will be completely out of water by the end of the year.

But droughts are not the only epidemic spreading like wildfire this summer.  The dry conditions of our western forests are literally causing rampant wildfires that the US is having trouble containing and extinguishing.

2013, thus far, has been a sad and long story for our forests.  Wildfires are consuming more acres than ever before in history.   31,900 fires have hit 3 million acres in the United States so far this year, with 40 active fires still burning in more than 6 states. One of the largest blazes is located on the western boundary of Yosemite National Park in California. The fire has been ravaging the land burning more than 288 square miles and threatening 5,000 homes nearby, resulting in California’s governor to declare a state of emergency in San Francisco, located 150 miles away.

The California “Rim Fire,” which began August 17th, has already been labeled as one of the largest wildfires in California history, and it’s still spreading. More than 4,000 firefighters are currently working on quelling the blaze, and they expect to have it contained by September 20th. However, it is impossible to predict how much destruction there will be by then.

Researchers believe that wildfires will soon become more common as the temperatures get warmer and forests begin to lose their moisture. Once trees dry up, they lose their ability to resist the effects of fire and unable to protect themselves.  As droughts continue to last longer what water will there be to help firefighters attack these wildfires?

There is no mistaking the correlation between rising temperatures, global climate change, increasing droughts and raging wildfires. There is also no mistaking the dependency on water to extinguish these fires.