The Daily Item’s July 27 article “Beating the Heat” included helpful suggestions from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for reducing water use during our current drought watch. I would like to add two more suggestions:
Use a dishpan to catch water used in washing or scrubbing vegetables, and use that water for watering plants.
Think hard about water use in the fossil fuel industry.
According to the website “hydraulicfracturing.com” (“An Energy from Shale Project”), “The amount of water used during the hydraulic fracturing of one [gas] well is typically the equivalent of the volume of three to six Olympic sized swimming pools.” There is no officially-sanctioned water volume for an Olympic sized swimming pool, but Wikipedia estimates a typical volume of 660,000 US gallons. This would mean that a typical gas well in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale consumes between 1,980,000 and 3,960,000 gallons of water.
Everyone learns about the hydrological cycle in elementary school: water evaporates and precipitates over and over in a closed, regenerating system. Water that has been used in hydraulic fracturing, because of its chemical content, is generally taken out of the hydrologist cycle and either injected deep underground or, sometimes, reused to frack other wells. It’s been calculated that burning methane actually returns more water to the atmosphere than is used to extract the gas from underground, so in that sense, this “consumptive use” of water does return water to the hydrological cycle eventually. However, it doesn’t necessarily put that water where we need it in periods of drought—which will be more frequent and severe as we continue to release methane, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
We certainly need energy, but we need water more. All life depends on it. We have the technology to break free of fossil fuels AND provide jobs in renewable energy for workers displaced from the coal, oil, and gas industries, if we can muster the collective will to do so. This being the case, for the DEP to advise me to conserve water around the house while allowing the fossil fuel industry to unnecessarily consume more water than I will use in my lifetime (about five million gallons if Iive to be 90, according to waterinfo.org) strikes me as hypocritical. I’m not saying individuals shouldn’t conserve water, for millions of households saving a gallon here and a gallon there adds up to a significant conservation effort. I’ll certainly continue to save my vegetable-washing water for my plants and encourage others to do the same. But when it comes to the substances most essential for life, we as a society need to get our priorities straight.
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