Letter: Quality, quantity of water still an issue
To the editor,
Research recently released by the North Dakota State University (Grand Forks Herald, Nov. 15) spelled out the obvious on fracking and water. Water use for the Bakken oil boom consumed water at unprecedented levels, it said, and key western North Dakota aquifers declined.
The researchers noted that much heavier precipitation at the height of Bakken drilling may have prevented worse damage. But this NDSU research doesn't tell the whole story, including blowouts, unsafe oil trucks, flares that burn off natural gas for years and uranium-contaminated filter socks tossed into an abandoned gas station.
Yes, water quality and quantity have been and will remain a key concern for those living in the patch.
Remember how state Rep. Robert Skarphol, R-Tioga, submitted legislation in 2011 calling for electronic monitoring of all fracking water sales. It passed, but Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple vetoed it.
And how in 2013, Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, introduced a bill to impose an excise tax on purchasers of groundwater extracted for fracking. The Republican-dominated House defeated it.
Here in western North Dakota, we don't trust the oil industry on a bipartisan basis.
It's possible there will be another big push for extraction in the Bakken. Next time, we shouldn't be so giddy. We should make the oil companies protect our land, people, water and livestock.
A report I helped write with Western Organization of Resource Councils, titled "Gone for Good," lays out a clear blueprint that North Dakota should follow in the future in order to avoid overusing North Dakota's water resource.
First, like the NDSU study, we must study our water resources to ensure we are not exhausting them. Second, we must make a plan that allows water to be withdrawn in a manner that does not irreparably harm aquifers. Third, we must monitor and control the impacts associated with water withdrawals related to drilling. This means monitoring water quality and whether or not the aquifer is being depleted.
And lastly, we must provide incentives urging companies to recycle water used in the drilling process to reduce water usage.