Texas, a state notorious for its embrace of fossil fuel industries, and where 85% of new wells are developed using natural gas fracking, they are taking steps to limit the practice.
New wells for fracking have doubled in Texas over the past two years, and have been exempt from water restrictions. Texas produces a third of the natural gas in the US.
But the drought has been so severe in the state - the driest year since record keeping began in 1895 -that water consumption is being restricted for oil and natural gas producers for the first time.
The city of Grand Prairie, situated on the Barnett Shale in North Texas, is the first municipality in Texas to ban the use of water for fracking. Officials for the Ogallala Aquifer water district issued water consumption regulations, which also include fracking operations.
Drillers are trying to bypass restrictions by such methods as trucking in water from other locations or accessing non-potable water sources. The cost of such strategies is usually a small fraction of the overall cost of drilling a new well, which can run into the millions of dollars.
Chesapeake Energy received a measly $2000 fine when it trucked water in from elsewhere.
Without limits, fracking operations are projected to increase water use dramatically by 2020. In the Eagle Ford Shale formation in South Texas, oil and gas companies are expected to increase consumption from 5,800 acre-feet of water in 2010 to 44,800 in 2020.
Fracking, requires as much as 7.5 million gallons of water per well, as well as containing toxic chemicals, used to crack open rock and allow natural gas to flow to the surface.
This year, opposition to the controversial practice has led to a ban on fracking in New Jersey, a call for a statewide ban in New York by a coalition of 47 consumer, faith, food, environmental and multi-issue advocacy organizations, and a formal protest in California aimed at stopping the lease of 2,600 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Monterey and Fresno counties for oil and gas development.
Doctors Warn NY on Health Risks of Fracking
In New York, a coalition of 250 doctors, medical associations and environmental groups have written to Governor Cuomo, requesting the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) add potential health risks to the issues related to hydraulic fracturing.
"We are greatly concerned about the omission of a critical issue related to the development of natural gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking": human health impacts," the letter says. "We believe the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) must correct this oversight ..."
"The environmental impacts of gas development include air and water pollution and soil contamination, which are clearly established pathways for health impacts," the coalition writes. In other states, the letter continued, "Cases have been documented of worsening health among residents living in proximity to gas wells and infrastructure such as compressor stations and waste pits." Symptoms, the doctors add, are typical for exposure to toxic chemicals and air and water pollutants used in oil and gas development.
Here's the letter: