Water restrictions don't apply to fracking operations in most North Texas cities

Print
Email
|

by DAVID SCHECHTER / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 9:04 AM

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A gallon of water is getting to be a precious commodity in North Texas.

People across North Texas have been living through years of drought and water restrictions, but not the oil and gas industry.

Hydraulic fracturing can take between 2 and 3 million gallons of water per well without any restrictions.

Sharon Wilson with Earthworks Action is a vocal opponent of fracking.

“It makes no sense to tell people not to flush their toilets when the oil and gas industry is using such massive amounts of water,” Wilson said.

News 8 requested water sales data over the most recent 18-month period from Fort Worth, Arlington, and the Tarrant Regional Water District. Together, they sold Chesapeake Energy almost 285,000,000 gallons of water for fracking.

Chesapeake referred our questions to Ed Ireland, who speaks for oil and gas companies working in the Barnett Shale formation, an area which covers 24 counties, including Tarrant.

“Using water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing is not a major use of water,”  said Ireland, with the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council.

In fact, he said because of depressed gas prices fracking in the Barnett is down 85 percent from its peak. And the Tarrant Regional Water District said recent water sales for fracking account for less than 1 percent of its overall sales.

Ireland said in this time of drought, water for fracking is not the problem.

“Half of the residential use of water is watering lawns. So, in a word, that gets the biggest bang for the buck,” he said.

And that’s exactly what most communities do -— ask residents to cut back, not industrial users, like oil and gas drillers.

“We follow all the rules [...] in the Drought Contingency and Water Conservation Plans and apply those rules equally among all our customers," the city or Arlington wrote in a statement. "The gas drilling industry is a customer and we do not treat them any differently.”

But one city does treat fracking differently: Grand Prairie.

Ron McCuller is that city’s Public Works director.

“It’s very simple," he said. "I didn’t check to see if anyone else was doing it or not doing it."

During a period of water restriction, oil and gas companies must request special permission to use water in Grand Prairie. McCuller said that gives him flexibility to manage the city’s water supply in a time of drought.

“I wanted to have the ability to prohibit, or preferably just delay, that fracking operation if the water system was in bad shape,” McCuller said.

In Grand Prairie, at least, it’s not about denying water for fracking. McCuller said while water is scarce, it’s about asking everyone to sacrifice together, not just homeowners.

An idea, in Grand Prairie, that’s easy to wash down.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|