Manmade Water Shortages Threaten the Southwest

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Drought in Texas (photo:

Millions of Americans in the Southwest are living in communities suffering from manmade water shortages.


In Texas alone, approximately 30 towns and cities could run out of water by the end of this year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Water rationing has been imposed on nearly 15 million people, whose troubles range from not being able to water their lawns to not having any water at all.


In Barnhart, Texas, residents turn on their taps and get nothing, a product of shale gas fracking operations that have drained water from underground wells. In the nearby county of Crockett, fracking uses up to 25% of the water, according to the groundwater conservation district.


Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, says fracking is not the only cause of water shortages.


“We have large urban centers sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water,” Hayhoe told The Guardian.


Rancher Buck Owens blames the oil industry. He says companies drilled more than a hundred wells to feed water to their drilling operations, which resulted in a serious decline in the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer.


“They are sucking all of the water out of the ground, and there are just hundreds and hundreds of water trucks here every day bringing fresh water out of the wells,” Owens told The Guardian.


As a result, Owens has gone from running as many as 500 cattle and 8,000 goats on his 19,000 acres to only a few hundred goats.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

A Texan Tragedy: Ample Oil, no Water (by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian)


Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn (by Ian Lovett, New York Times)


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