MERCED, CA — In the midst of a drought, and with wells on small farms and towns throughout the Central California Valley running out of water, oil and gas companies have been legally and illegally dumping chemical laden waste water into actual and potential sources of drinking water.
California is into the fourth year of a drought, and non-agricultural residents have been ordered by the governor to reduce their water use 35 percent. The snow pack in the mountains, from which surface water such as rivers, streams, and dams are refilled and underground aquifers are recharged, is less than six percent of normal. As a consequence, deeper wells are being dug into existing aquifers, particularly by large farmers who are not restricted in their use by Governor Brown. The result is that farm workers and other rural residents are running out of drinking water, while water intense almonds, grown for export abroad, and oil companies, continue to drill and pollute.
The revelation that the oil and gas companies have been drilling legal and illegal wells was made by Clean Water Action http://www.cleanwateraction.org/DrinkingWaterAtRisk#more. Ostensibly the oil companies are dumping the chemical waste from fracking into salty or unfit sources of water underground. However, it appears that this has been happening even with clean drinking water. In 1982, the oil companies were given the authority to regulate themselves in monitoring 42,000 injection wells that dump toxic waste fluids into groundwater. This of course didn’t happen (Tom Hayden, http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/Dogging-DOGGR-s-misdeeds-in-Kern-6220757.php)
Ironically, bottled water, which is trucked into the stricken, waterless communities, is itself an example of the rich and powerful profiting off of the misery of the rest of us, particularly those in the devastated areas. First of all, bottled water in the main is just tap water, but sold for hundreds of times more. Secondly, the plastic for making the bottles is made from oil, the drilling for which is contaminating water sources. http://www.businessinsider.com/facts-bottled-water-industry-2011-10?op=1
The oil companies are the highest paying lobby in Sacramento, (according to Dan Bacher, 8/3/2013, Calitic). Their significant influence on Governor Brown is felt to be driving his twin tunnels idea to send Northern California water to corporate farmers and oil companies in Kern County, despite adverse effects to fishing and farming in the San Joaquin Delta.
Not only do we have a shortage of water due to the drought. We have a shortage of water because it is being contaminated to make some corporations filthy rich. The first step in defending ourselves is knowing what the problem is. The second is knowing who is causing the problem. Next, we have to be asking why our elected officials are not doing enough to protect us and the environment. Then, we have to organize in our and our neighbor’s interests. Water is a sacred and human right, not to be sold for profit and contaminated.