Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quenching Texas' Thirst

       As with a number of western states, Texas is in the middle of an extensive drought. In order to find where water is available, a small team has been analyzing written logs from old and abandoned oil and gas mining operations. These logs are from the University of Texas at Austin and are giving clues as to where to find water reserves that the state can tap for drinking and be used in agriculture. There are estimates totaling of hundreds of trillions of gallons of water throughout 30 of Texas’ aquifers, though much of it requires extensive desalination before it can be consumed by humans or used for agriculture. The project has shown that the Pecos Valley Aquifer holds more than 32 trillion gallons of water, only 4 trillion of which is fresh water. If the brackish water is pumped it could mix with the freshwater, necessitating desalination. Currently there are no regulations on pumping rates of brackish water in Texas meaning rapid extraction may leave them with future water security issues still.
In my opinion, it seems like this is a sticky situation; providing water for thirsty people and crops is essential, but since it has to be desalinated before use, Texans may have to pay a lot for that water. Brackish water, when compared to fresh water, requires more energy input to purify it and more desalination plants will likely have to be built (Texas currently only has 12). With the threat of extraction contaminating their fresh water aquifers, this process seems a little risky. If there are no clear extraction rate laws established, they could be left in the same situation down the road.
--Mitch Dunn

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