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What would you do with 201,600 gallons of fresh water in the middle of a desperate drought?

California is facing a desperate situation: the state is likely to close out the year as the driest on record, forecasters see no relief in sight, and Republican leaders in Kern County are begging Democratic President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought. The state Department of Water Resources has named a Drought Management Team (pdf). The State Water Project is providing water agencies 5% - five percent, not a typo - of their requested allocations (pdf).

oxnard wellIt's only going to get worse. California's fish and farmers will now have to fight with another force: frackers.

Last fall, the state passed SB4, a mild disclosure bill requiring frackers to tell us how much water they're using and where they're getting it from. Disclosures have begun to trickle in. I decided to investigate: where is the water coming from and how much?

According to the industry-funded Energy In Depth, California used 202 acre-feet on fracking, total, in 2012. (On a mid-November 2013 conference call, state officials told reporters that fracking used 270 acre-feet the prior year.) A typical frack job used 116,000 gallons of water. And a typical frack job is comprised of 99.51 percent water and sand.

The state Department of Conservation has posted, for December 2013, a well stimulation index - "well stimulation" being the term for fracking, acidizing, and other efforts to get oil out of the ground. So far, 140 notices have been posted. I went through 134 identical notices, all put out by Aera Energy (a joint venture of Shell and Exxon Mobil). All of them pertain to the Belridge oil fields of west Kern County, near drought-stricken Bakersfield. (The remaining 6 notices pertained to other areas/other companies or couldn't be opened.) All of them had the same information: well stimulation would involve 201,600 gallons of water, would begin in January 2014, and the water would come from either the California Aqueduct (part of the State Water Project) or company-owned wells.

I did some math. Aera's January plans for west Kern County well stimulation total 27,014,400 gallons of water, or 82.9 acre-feet of State Water Project water. Seems like a drop in the bucket of Kern County's total State Water Project allocation of 49,137 feet.

Until you think about it.

This is the disclosure by one company for one month in one county in California. In the middle of a desperate drought.

How much food can be grown by a Bakersfield farmer with 201,600 gallons of water?

Aera is a smaller player in California fracking than Occidental, and Oxy hasn't made any significant disclosures yet.

Bakersfield Republicans have no business asking the state and the federal governments for drought declarations until they have shown some common sense in water management: no water for fracking until human needs are met.

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM PST.

Also republished by San Diego Kossacks, Los Angeles Kossacks, Central Valley Kossacks, Southern California Inland Empire Kossacks, and California politics.

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