Water Wars: Agriculture versus Natural Gas

August 2nd, 2012 BY ChrisD | No Comments

The state of drought in the United States has reached epic proportions. In response, the United States Department of Agriculture declared more than 1,000 counties in 26 states natural disaster areas. This action makes the drought of 2012 the largest natural disaster area ever in the country. With so many states under pressure, it is no wonder that water resources are stressed.

Natural Gas Standoff
Agriculture and natural gas production both depend upon water. The reason for farming is obvious. Fracking uses pressurized fluids to release reserves located underground, to the tune of millions of gallons of water per well. The drought-like conditions across the country have created tensions between the two industries as a result.

Last year, Texas experienced its driest and hottest August on record. The state also happens to have the largest known natural gas reserves in the country. Likewise, Arkansas is in a similar situation. With the second largest reserves, most of the state is currently in severe to exceptional drought.

The Push to Recycle
Natural gas production has increased tremendously in the past two years. Many see it as a reasonable compromise to coal and carbon dioxide emissions. Economics is another factor in its favor, with prices at 10-year lows. However, the pressure of drought threatens to change the playing field.

The agricultural industry and environmental organizations are pressuring the natural gas industry to recycle to alleviate demand on the water supply and to mitigate its environmental costs. Moreover, recycling water would increase the cost of natural gas production and negate some of its current economic benefits.

The Cost of Energy
The fact remains that natural gas is not alone in its water demands. Solar plants face a similar dilemma with water used to power steam turbines. Again, recycling resources offers an option to lessen the need for water. Like natural gas production, solar power plants are located in areas also stressed by drought, such as Arizona.

The irony of the entire situation is that the possible solutions for alleviating the effects of global warming are limited by what is already occurring. The current state of drought is an anomaly because it is hotter than what is typically experienced. This factor makes the tug-of-war for water resources even more intense. The question remains can the respective industries come up with viable solutions?

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