Water should be a key concern in drilling discussion

Water should be a key concern in drilling discussion by Alvin W. Shier, February 22, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
The date when Goldenkey Oil Inc. is to apply for a licence to drill within the municipal boundary of Lethbridge is rapidly closing in. Their oil extraction operation will be in very close proximity to schools and residential areas; and they will use major transportation routes within city limits (the very roads your tax money keeps in good repair), to transport hazardous materials. Those three items may well be among the main items on the agenda at the city council-sponsored public forum on Monday. However, there is another item of dire importance which should be front row that evening – water!

Many people in the audience that night will not be aware that 97 per cent of the water on this planet that seven billion of us depend on for life, is not potable – it is salt water. The remaining three per cent of this increasingly stressed resource is bound in ice, or inaccessible in aquifers deep down in the earth, leaving a very small percentage accessible for all forms of human consumption. This is not fable – it is fact.

During the drilling of one oil well involving the controversial process known as “hydraulic fracturing,” upwards of 19 million litres of water may be used to coax raw crude petroleum from shale deposits deep down in the earth. Much of the water used in this way is not recoverable and is lost forever. At the current rate of depletion and despoiling of this endangered resource, the human race cannot survive.

The largest fresh-water source in the world, the Great Lakes, is at the lowest point in history, on average the world’s river systems flow less water today than they did just a decade ago, and the world’s agricultural community, the largest user of fresh water, has increasing problems finding enough to produce a crop. Scientists studying the looming crisis are predicting that humans, at current rates of growth, will balloon to 10 billion by 2050. There will be a problem, because one billion people on Earth right now do not have access to potable water. Alarming, isn’t it? As hard as it may be to imagine a world without gas and oil, it is arguably more difficult to imagine life without water, for it is the only compound which humans cannot exist without.

I urge all in attendance at Monday’s public forum to bump water to the top of the agenda. Our future depends on it. [Emphasis added]

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