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Tuesday, 14 April 2015 11:08

Fracking and Big Ag Are Polluting 80 Percent of the Depleted Groundwater in California

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JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAwater(Photo: fir0002)Residents of California have been warned by Governor Jerry Brown (D) that should they shower or water trees and gardens at an amount that exceeds the state’s mandatory limits (i.e. cutting urban water use 25 percent) they will be harshly penalized with water fines.

That’s a sensible rule given the fact that California is running out of water statewide. For instance, lakes are vanishing, rivers drying up and snowmelt levels are way below normal at 6%. Worse still, the state’s main source of groundwater is drying up from the consequences of global warming, primarily caused from industrialization and pollution.

California is facing the worst drought in history—so we get it. Be careful. Don’t waste water. Conserve. But I’d like to ask the Gov why the oil and gas companies can use as much groundwater as they want with impunity?

Ranchers would also like to know why fracking has a free pass to use up to 80 percent of the diminishing groundwater, while at the same time there’s not enough grass to feed horses and cattle. Why is the so-called “green” Governor giving the fossil fuel industry a free pass?  

The governor is well versed on the causes of global warming. He has a comprehensive understanding that fossil fuel “greenhouse gas emissions” are at the root cause of producing what could be a permanent drought. How dire is the situation?

To put it simply: no rain, no life. In fact, a disturbing trend in the water sector is accelerating worldwide. The new “water barons” — the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires — are buying up water all over the world at an unprecedented pace. This will limit the available public supply even further.

“Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest,” Zack Malitz, an environmental spokesperson says, according to Reuters.

“It is striking that Governor Brown’s executive order refines restrictions to the urban sector that consumes only 20 percent of California’s water and leaves the agricultural and gas drilling sector, which consumes 80 percent of the water, untouched at least for the moment,” Mark Hertsgaard, an environmental journalist and author who lives in San Francisco, told ABC News. “You can’t leave 80 percent of the problem off the table.”

To a certain extent, one can understand the necessity for providing water for agricultural purposes. California is a vital source for providing vegetables and fruits across the United States and to international markets. But there are ways to conserve that water. The Governor, for example, is certainly aware of the drip-system form of irrigation first developed in Israel.

Drip irrigation saves water by allowing it to drip slowly to the roots of plants.

As for hydraulic fracturing, it should be legally banned, not only because it pollutes and wastes millions of gallons of groundwater a day, fracking causes earthquakes.

Fracking involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals into the ground that can contaminate ground water. “It was shocking, especially in the midst of our drought,” Adam Scow, California director of Food and Water Watch, told ABC News. “The groundwater is our savings account for water in California and not only were we over-drafting it, but polluting it with toxic chemicals.” About 70 million gallons of water were estimated to have been used in California fracking operations in 2014.

Regarding the causes of California’s historic drought, most scientists have concluded that it is the result of global warming changes.

But there could be an even worse causal explanation in addition to climate change that’s related to Japan’s Fukushima, which occurred after the devastating earthquake and tsunami meltdown explosions in 2011.

It’s important to consider all the possible pieces of the puzzle. And there’s a huge piece of the puzzle, what could be called the Big Red Elephant known as the “blob” sitting off the Pacific coast that seems to be connected to Fukushima.

According to a recent RT report, “The ‘Blob' in Pacific Ocean Might be to Blame for California Drought, Erratic US Weather – Studies”, a massive area of warm water, described as the “blob” occurred coincidentally after Fukushima’s catastrophic nuclear explosions. Japan has been and is still releasing tons of radioactive water into the Pacific.

Is there a causal explanation for why Fukushima’s radiation is being detected up and down the western coasts from Hawaii to Canada? One of the first lessons taught in a logic class is inductive reasoning: where there is smoke, there’s fire.

The continuous release of cancer-causing radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean is affecting sea-life and erratic changes in the jet-stream: Tuna tested in labs caught off the Pacific coasts, for example, are tainted with cancerous Cesium-134 and Cesium-137. The FDA reported that it’s not enough to be harmful, nevertheless, that’s up to the public to decide if they want to trust the FDA’s assessment.

As for California’s drought, in addition to the abnormal warming of sea temperatures, we’ve seen dramatic changes in the jet-stream climate patterns after 2011 that have occurred so quickly and radically within the last few years that global warming, alone, cannot explain the rapid severity of these irregular changes in the Pacific atmosphere. The timing of the “blob’s” development occurred after Japan began dumping tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, according to CBS News:

"In the fall of 2013 and early 2014, we started to notice a big, almost-circular mass of water that just didn't cool off as much as it usually did. So by spring of 2014, it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year," study co-author Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the University of Washington, said in a statement.

This warm blob, which is about 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the usual temperature for this region, means the winter air that crosses over the Pacific Ocean wasn't cooled as much as it normally would be. That, in turn, spelled warmer, dryer conditions for the West Coast.

If we have any chance of survival left on this planet, industrial energy: oil, gas drilling (fracking), coal and nuclear must be outlawed by 2025. Leaders of the world must agree to be responsible enough to prevent total extinction of life on Earth. They cannot keep postponing the inevitable; there will be no future if action isn’t taken now.

Both President Obama and Governor Brown have implemented a plan to reduce carbon emissions. Governor Brown has been praised for his advanced state and federal support for wind and solar, but both the president and Governor Brown cannot significantly meet the challenges of global warming by giving free passes to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.  

For every fracking well that pollutes millions of gallons of water, there are solar and wind companies waiting to replace them. According to the Renewable Portfolio Standard, 25 percent of California’s electricity will be renewable by the year 2016. That figure increases to 33 percent by 2020.

The oil, gas, coal and nuclear oligarchs are telling us, through the mainstream media, that we can go to Mars after Earth is so polluted that it can’t support life. The industrialists are welcomed to be the first to go and live on Mars right now with a permanent, one-way ticket.

The fact is there is no other planet that can sustain life as we know it. When they destroy Earth, unnecessarily from greed, we all go down with the ship.

As for Governor Jerry Brown’s free passes to Big Oil and Ag to waste and pollute as much groundwater as they want without any fines or penalties (80% compared to residents’ 20%), he should be penalized with an enormous fat fine for hypocrisy and unethical negligence. As usual, hard-working Americans are forced to carry the burden of corporate exploitation and pollution.

By contrast, I’d like to conclude by telling the amazing story about a courageously moral, young woman, Erica Mackey, now 31, who is installing solar to Tanzanian families in Africa that were paying up to $800 to connect to the country’s abysmal electric grid. The basic plan costs $6.00 to install and includes two lights and one cell charger for $1.25. Thanks to Erica’s extraordinary efforts, she has installed solar units in 50,000 Tanzanian homes. Her goal is to light up the entire continent of Africa with solar: 10 million homes in 10 years because, as she put it, the sun is “ubiquitous.”

That ought to put Governor Brown and all our crooked US politicians to shame. Erica Mackey had a brilliant idea and she single-handedly made it happen. How? Well, for starters, she’s not being paid off by Big Oil, Gas, Coal and Nuclear.

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Jacqueline Marcus is the editor of ForPoetry.com and EnvironmentalPress.com.  She is a contributing guest writer for Buzzflash at Truthout.org.  She is the author of Close to the Shore by Michigan State University Press. Her E-book, Man Cannot Live on Oil, Alone: Time to end our dependency on oil before it ends us, is available at Kindle Books. She taught philosophy for 20 years at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, California.