Washington, D.C. — Oil and gas production in the West is stressing scarce water resources, but the government has failed to collect critical data that show how these projects affect water supplies, according to a new column from the Center for American Progress.
The federal government has no standard reporting requirements for energy companies related to water use, and it lacks comprehensive data sources on the risks that existing or proposed oil and gas wells on public lands pose to nearby water supplies, the column says.
“Policymakers can’t address the threats to water supplies without knowing the extent of the problem,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, director of policy for Public Lands at CAP and author of the column. “Farmers, ranchers, and other Western stakeholders deserve to know the impacts that energy development has on nearby water sources before it’s too late.”
The column recommends the following steps:
- The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) should track and publicize water-for-energy use from public lands. The secretary of the interior should have the USGS assess impacts of energy extraction on ground water availability.
- To empower stakeholders such as farmers and ranchers with information, the Bureau of Land Management should provide a clear and consistent picture across resource management plans of the potential impacts from proposed oil and gas development to water quality and quantity within the relevant watershed.
- Congress should disregard President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, which called for a 25 percent cut to the relevant USGS program, and instead appropriate all necessary funds.
- Congress should appropriate funding to conduct baseline studies and periodic monitoring of groundwater sources for each fracking event.
Read the column: “U.S. Lacks Data Needed to Weigh Effects of Oil and Gas Production on Western Water Supply” by Mary Ellen Kustin.
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