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The Central Valley Water Board will consider a cease-and-desist order Thursday against a Kern County company that operates dozens of unlined pits holding oil field waste water. The board says it has evidence that a plume of oil waste from one or more of the 27 pits has contaminated groundwater. The 94-acre Edison oil field waste site is operated by Valley Water Management Co., which handles waste water for a number of oil firms in the region.
Nearly two million people die from a lack of safe drinking water every year, and in just 15 years time, half the world’s population could be living in areas of high water stress – places where there isn’t enough water to go round. Experts and governments have predicted a range of possibilities. Famine could ensue if a country can’t grow enough food. Poor drinking water supplies means more people will drink from dirty sources, and water borne diseases such as typhoid would spread more quickly, and conflicts between nations over water resources could become armed conflicts.
“Up to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the U.S. each year – about the annual water consumption of 40 to 80 cities each with a population of 50,000; Horizontal shale wells can use anywhere from 2 to 10 million gallons of water to fracture a single well.”
The water stored in the ground can be compared to money kept in a bank account. If you withdraw money at a faster rate than you deposit new money you will eventually start having account-supply problems. As the depth to water increases, the water must be lifted higher to reach the land surface. If pumps are used to lift the water, more energy is required to drive the pump. Using the well can become prohibitively expensive. The overall effect is a loss of riparian vegetation and wildlife habitat.
Some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages, and ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.
Water competition is growing, and companies need to learn to cope. Growing competition for water increasingly forces companies and governments to treat water as a far more precious resource than they have in the past, says Deloitte’s Consulting’s Will Sarni. That means they need to develop technology and strategies for combating the financial losses they may suffer from shortages.