13 March 2012
by Alex Curtas
El Aqua es la Vida
The great news out of Albuquerque today is that the city has surpassed a water conservation goal it had until 2024 to meet. The city’s daily water usage dipped below 150 gallons per person in 2011. The ABQ Journal reports that:
Per capita usage is down 40 percent from 1994, when the utility launched a major water conservation effort after experts realized Albuquerque was draining the groundwater reservoir that serves the city. Daily usage at the time was 252 gallons per person. […]
Albuquerque’s reduced usage is a demonstration that, despite the dry climate and dwindling water supplies, it is possible for cities in the western United States to learn to live within their means, said Michael Cohen, a water policy analyst with the Pacific Institute, a California-based think tank.
“Continued reductions are still possible and achievable,” said Cohen. “At some point there’s a wall, but I think we’re a long way from that.”
While this is GREAT news for Albuquerque and for any Western city that struggles with water use/conservation, we should also use this news to draw attention to the fact that we’re nowhere near out of the woods (or, drought-addled landscape) yet.
New Mexico is still in the grip of a severe drought and, while conservation efforts are essential to the continued sustainability of our Southwestern way of life, nothing can change the fact that still more must be done to ensure that our communities continue to have access to this most precious of all resources.
While hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is touted by politicians and industry tycoons as a safe and necessary supplement to America’s energy needs, such claims fail to account for a variety of hazards associated with the drilling technique (earthquakes, groundwater pollution, wasted water, etc.).
Besides the fact that fracking has been blamed for earthquakes in multiple states, fracking wells require MASSIVE amounts of water – anywhere from 1 to 8 million gallons per well (that’s 200 tanker trucks full of water per well). This water is filled with a plethora of chemicals and is used to crack rock formations deep under the surface so that natural gas can be retrieved. Once these millions of gallons of water are chemically treated and pumped into the ground the water is no longer potable. (Check out this great infographic to see what fracking is and what it requires.)
Just today, Pennsylvania’s legislature rammed through an ALEC-sponsored, industry-approved bill that forces all localities to allow natural gas drilling (even in residential areas). While Pennsylvania might seem like a long way away, there is plenty of natural gas extraction occurring here in New Mexico and we all know that our governor is not a fan of common-sense environmental regulations.
New Mexico’s precious water resources cannot and should not be diverted into hazardous industrial sectors like natural gas drilling. Albuquerque has taken great strides in water conservation that the rest of New Mexico can learn and prosper from. However, all the hard work our citizens and communities have done to preserve water in New Mexico would be undone by any further proliferation of fracking in our state.
Take the time to educate yourself about this important issue. Because water is life and in this enchanted land we need as much of it as we can get.