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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Environment & Forest Defense
California Water Markets vs The Environment and Ecosystem Services
California's water crisis issues have been and continue to be dominated by arguments that portray it as 1) farmers against CEQA, 2) farmers vs fish in the rivers in the north 3) urban household use and landscaping and 4) the candied plea for conscious conservation in the interest of 'agriculture' which is usually framed in the context of farms vs individual homeowner landscaping. But over the course of one year, in one oil field in California, the quantity of water used to steam the earth would serve 60,000 to 70,000 households (single family of four, 3 bedroom) including landscape needs. It is important to know what is really being said, even when a Politician doesn't sound like he's saying anything important, what is being said, alludes to a suite of hidden meanings in jargon carefully constructed to sound like nothing too specific.
California Water Markets vs The Environment and Ecosystem Services
Oil and water don't mix, but toxins leech, and contaminates migrate.
Oil And water aren't usually mentioned together either in funded research or special edition news segments, and not even in recent educational videos on California Water Management. When it comes to water resources in the State, one never hears any mention of oil and or gas production. Like twin tunnel vision, a duality of mental states of denial.
The Frackinator Denominator In Water Conservation
True or False
1) The agricultural sector uses around 80 percent of all of the water withdrawn in California.
2) The agricultural sector uses around 80 percent of all of the water withdrawn for human use in California (34.2 million acre-feet per year agricultural use divided by a total human use of 43.1 maf).
This California number is the same as the global estimate of agricultural water use: 80% of the water humans use goes to agriculture. Using this number, agriculture only uses around 41% of the state's water. From: San Francisco Chronicle The denominator problem: Misleading use of water numbers...Dr. Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute
I know that it reads slightly different than we have heard it said by WSPA and the general news crews. But it is important to know what is really being said, even when a Politician doesn't sound like he's saying anything important, what is being said, alludes to a suite of hidden meanings in jargon carefully constructed to sound like nothing too specific. And It's preferable that the audience be dumbed down, drugged up, or unconscious.
Is Michigan More Conscious than California?
“In Michigan, if it is anticipated that a water withdrawal will exceed 100,000 gallons per day, one must apply for a permit with the DEQ and use the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool. 55 million gallons of water was used for fracking in Michigan in 2012 according to the Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals at the D.E.Q.”
The Sierra Club and the Michigan Oil and Gas Association sem to all agree that the average Michigan Frac Job uses between four and twelve million gallons of water per well. The highest water use for a High Volume High Pressure (HVHP) hydraulic fracture of a well in 2012 was a in Kalkaska County, Michigan, where 21.2 million gallons of water was used. The amount of water usage has to be reported to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Steamed Earth GHG Emissions, AB 32, And Streamlined Environmental Laws
Out west in California, one company, in one oil field each day uses 60 million gallons of water per day from the California Aqueduct and injects it as steam into wells in a process not covered by SB 4 Well Stimulation Regulations, called Steam Injection. Cyclic steam injection repeats this process for a week or more at a time, then the ground is allowed to cool slightly, at which time production begins and oil flows up out the well. When production falls off, the process is repeated.
If only applied 12 weeks in a year, that's 5 billion gallons allocated from the California Aqueduct, taken from the aquifers, rivers and watersheds of the northern part of the State. Watch the video,
This American Land; Mixing Oil And Water: 4 min
The math below is pretty close, though slightly rounded.
1.4 million barrels a day. 42 (gallons) x 1.4 million is 58,800,000 almost 60 million gallons. That's 184 acre feet each day. A seven day cycle equals 1288 acre feet of water usage, and with 12 cycles per year, that's 15,456 acre feet of water per year turned to steam, and injected underground.
Compared to the water usage of a single family of four, in a 3 bedroom household, that's roughly equivalent to the yearly water usage of 700-1000 families in California, each day.
In one week, a quantity of water which could serve the yearly needs of 5,000 – 7,000 California families is pumped down into the ground, as steam. It comes back out with the oil, as produced water. As production falls off, steam injection is again applied, hence the term “Cyclic Steam Injection”. That means that in one year, in one oil field in California, the quantity of water used to steam the earth would serve 60,000 to 70,000 households (single family of four, 3 bedroom) including landscape needs.
Folsom Lake holds 1,000,000 acre feet, though it's level is currently at about 17% of capacity. And that amount of water is pretty close the yearly usage amount of a single household as stated above.
Jerry Brown Water, a.k.a. The Frackinator in his State of the State, also mentioned that “We need everyone in every part of the state to conserve water.”
Another 'Enhanced Oil Recovery Process', Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) also uses copious amounts of water to extract oil from the Tar Sands at Oxnard. The extractive process uses a combination of dual parallel horizontal wells for extraction and vertical wells for steam injection.
So what did Governor and Frackinator Jerry Brown Water really say that was so important?
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to mitigate the effects of the drought. I have declared a State of Emergency. We need regulators to rebalance water rules and enable voluntary transfers of water.”
Water Transfers and Environmental Review
The legislature has already exempted from environmental review (CEQA) short-term transfers such as those those lasting one year or less, and which are subject to the jurisdiction of the State Water Resources Quality Control Board.
Streamlining Environmental Review for approvals for transfers, muddies the waters so to speak.
The practical distinction between short- and long-term transfers is not as clear as implied in statute. The CEQA exemption for short-term transfers in the water code applies only to transfers subject to review by the SWRCB. And that is the crux of the apostrophe. (Zappa)
The SWRCB must consider potential impacts to other legal users of the water and to fish, wildlife, or other instream beneficial uses. This exemption allows water to be moved quickly in response to acute shortages caused by drought, regulatory restrictions, or other contingencies. The exemption also recognizes that any potential harm to “third parties” (those who are not buyers or sellers in the transaction) from a short-term transfer will itself be short-lived.
Of course “third parties” does not legally cover anything but the two-legged ones, certainly not “all our relations”. Generations of fish kills, due to water transfers is a solidly documented and yet, recurring example of water transfer from lower-value uses to higher-value uses, all relative to the financial incentives of the market.
Long-term transfers must be preceded by CEQA review (usually in an EIR) because they often involve large quantities of water and their effects on the rivers and lands from which the water is transferred may last for many years.
Short-term (annual or seasonal) water transfers have become important for California’s response to droughts and other acute water shortages, as they allow for the temporary movement of water from areas of relative abundance to areas of critical need. Such transfers have grown in importance over the past decade, particularly for urban uses.
Modern water transfer laws in California allow existing users to profit from conserved net water use by allowing water users to lease water to others without facing the “use it or lose it” provisions that normally apply to appropriative water rights.
In the vernacular of the puppeteers:
“There is a link between water transfers and the reasonable use doctrine. The reasonable use doctrine can place constructive pressure on existing water uses and encourage the profitable transfer of water from potentially unreasonable uses.”
“Water transfers and voluntary market mechanisms serve to reallocate water by economic incentives. Water Markets improve the efficiency and use of developed water allocation by encouraging transfers from inefficient or lower-value uses to higher-value uses relative to the financial incentives of the market.”
Lastly, water transfers also can contribute to protecting the public trust by allowing users to transfer water directly to wetlands, water quality, fish, recreation, and other environmental uses.
But California's water crisis issues have been and continue to be dominated by arguments that portray it as 1) farmers against CEQA, 2) farmers vs fish in the rivers in the north 3) urban household use and landscaping and 4) the candied plea for conscious conservation in the interest of 'agriculture' which is usually framed in the context of farms vs individual homeowner landscaping.
And I am concerned, that encouraging water transfers from lower-value uses to higher-value uses relative to the financial incentives of the market can make it all the worse.
Like Josh Fox Has Said; It Matters Who's Going To Tell This Story
In the 2011 report issued by the Public Policy Institute Center, as elsewhere, water usage by oil and gas operations in the state is never mentioned; not even once.
Managing California’s Water From Conflict to Reconciliation
© 2011 by Public Policy Institute of California.
At least the document includes a topographical map of groundwater aquifer basins in California on page 193, adjudicated basins DWR Bulletin 118 Aquifers
505 pages full report 8 MB download, the book sold for $35.00
As in the document, and on any day, in any broadcast or drought related news story, water usage by oil and gas operations in the state is never mentioned; not once. In the 505 pages, the only use of the term 'natural gas' is under the heading “Water As A Commodity”. It states that “the broad economic and environmental effects of storing, moving, and using water make it necessary to regulate these functions to protect public values. But water is also a commodity, an input into the production of goods and services, with a price and a market value, much like electricity or natural gas.”
So, according to the Public Policy Institute of California 2011 report “Managing California’s Water From Conflict to Reconciliation” apparently there is no oil and gas extraction in the State of California.
But then, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, along with the Stephen Bechtel Jr. Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, fund the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studies advocating the construction of the peripheral canal and twin tunnels.
And all three of those 'donors' funded implementation of the California Makeover Licensing And Privatization Act Initiative (MLPAi) which the Petroleum Princess herself road herd over for it's entire inception as a member and Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Farce.
In 505 pages, the PPIC report covers the 200-300 years of history of water law in California; from early land transfers and water rights (Spanish Pueblo), the public commons, court cases, amendments and legislation, public works, Klamath River Tribal water management, environmental rights, monetary valuation of ecosystem services and functions, the Delta Project, water transfers, recycling and industrial wastewater management options for decontamination and water recycling (nothing specific), and the importance of surface water and groundwater recharge zones.
Yet never does it mention oil production in the State of California. In fact, the word 'oil' never occurs, and neither does the phrase 'oil and gas' or 'oil and gas industry'. There is some mention of California's early mining economy and remaining environmental impacts from legacy mines (2 paragraphs on p 157), and Gold Rush era mercury-laden sediments, and the hydraulic mining of rivers (1852-1884). These are referenced in a historical sense, with barely a mention passing quickly over how water quality management in the future will also be affected by “the legacies of pollution from California’s early mining economy”. California’s complex and diverse geology produces more than 700 mineral commodities. (CA State Conservation Website)
Now the report is supposed to be an entire study of California Water Management, with unlimited funding behind it. Do not think for a moment that what the Frackinator Governor is doing hasn't already been studied, and worked out with a road map for change developed. The rest is just scenery, dead lakes and rivers, brown landscapes, impacts around our homes, and at the workplace.
That road map for change continues to hand over the rights of Californians to clean air and water, and the best of what's left in the environment, Public Lands, and even private property.
I'm talking about the same multi-billion dollar players for 3 decades in California. Manipulating the educational system, the role of made by paid science in the background of politics and media PR to educate us. I don't mean the oil companies themselves, they're just doing business in California, they make money here. For others, it's about control, absolute control. Two very key players, that have initiated a cultural shift in perception, attitudes and investment, in the 501c-3 non-profits influence over public policy, are Dr. John Mick Seidl and Barry Munitz.
But First, Just Another California Legacy
California has more than 47,000 abandoned mines, and 5,200 of these have the potential to significantly degrade water quality for human use and wildlife. One hundred and fifty of these mines are currently considered dangerous and in need of immediate attention, mostly because they produce acidic solutions laced with a complex mix of toxic chemicals (when it rains).”
Today, overdrafting and contamination of groundwater also occur in oil and gas fields, and unassociated gas fields, as a result of water withdrawals and it's use in oil and gas production and subsequent injection through disposal wells into 'exempt aquifers' or portions of basin and sub-basin aquifers exempted under the SDWA.
Even though the public trust doctrine, much like the 'reasonable use' clause “serves the function in California’s integrated water rights system of preserving the continuing sovereign power of the state to protect public trust uses, groundwater aquifers continue to be exempted for use by the Oil and Gas industry. That sovereign power of the state precludes anyone from acquiring a vested right to harm the public trust, and imposes a continuing duty on the state to take such uses into account in allocating water resources” (National Audubon Society v. Superior Court 1983).
Pumping California groundwater from exempted aquifers, for the processes of hydrocarbon extraction, at present is not tallied. Except in the case of Uranium aquifer exemptions, once an aquifer is exempt, water usage is in essence private and proprietary. If the aquifer is used for waste disposal then monitoring wells may be tested for contaminate migration, but that may be omitted (determined by the remoteness of the exempt aquifer to the nearest public drinking water supply source). It can be totally good drinking water, or irrigation water, but because it is remote, hydrocarbon extraction and aquifer exemptions (or portions of aquifers) are given preferential use permits. (There is a maximum threshold limit for TDS, but aquifers at less than half the TDS can be exempted based on remote distances to a public drinking water supply).
Groundwater aquifers can be exempted if the Total Dissolved Solids content of the ground water is more than 3,000 and less than 10,000 mg/l and it is not reasonably expected to supply a public water system.
In California, where nearly half of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown with water from as far away as the Colorado River, the perennially cash-strapped state's governor is proposing to spend $14 billion to divert more of the Sacramento River from the north to the south. Near Bakersfield, a private project is underway to build a water bank, essentially an artificial aquifer.
View "State of Thirst" the KQED video on California Water Management, and get a clear animation of the flow of water throughout the State! No, oil and gas are never mentioned.
Still, more than 100 exemptions for natural aquifers have been granted in California, some to dispose of drilling and fracking waste in the state's driest parts. Though most date back to the 1980s, the most recent exemption was approved in 2009 in Kern County, an agricultural heartland that is the epicenter of some of the state's most volatile rivalries over water.
In 1981, shortly after the first exemption rules were set, the EPA lowered the bar for exemptions as part of settling a lawsuit filed by the American Petroleum Institute. Since then, the agency has issued permits for water not "reasonably expected" to be used for drinking. The original language allowed exemptions only for water that could never be used.
Oil companies have been the biggest users of aquifer exemptions by far. Once an exemption is issued, it's all but permanent; none have ever been reversed. Permits dictate how much material companies can inject and where, but impose little or no obligations to protect the surrounding water if it has been exempted.
The EPA and state environmental agencies require applicants to assess the quality of reservoirs and to do some basic modeling to show where contaminants should end up. But in most cases there is no obligation, for example, to track what has been put into the earth or, except in the case of the uranium mines to monitor where it does end up.
In August of 2012, On behalf of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (“ENDAUM”) a letter of intent to challenge the Aquifer Exemption Issued to Hydro Resources, Inc. for Church Rock was sent to Senators and the EPA. The Navajo Nation challenged an Aquifer Exemption permit application which is well below the EPA threshold, at 3,000 TDS. The language of their legal arguments shine a light on the process as only native voices could.
“The Act’s requirements for protecting USDWs are found in 42 USC § 300h. Specifically, the Act provides that drinking water programs have requirements that, at a minimum, assure that no underground sources of drinking water will be endangered by any underground injection. Id. at 300h(b)(1), 3(C).
The Act further provides that underground injection endangers drinking water sources if: 1) such injection may result in the presence in underground water which supplies or can reasonably be expected to supply any public water system of any contaminant, and 2) if the presence of such contaminant my result in such system’s not complying with any national primary drinking water regulation or may otherwise affect the health of persons.
H.R. Rep. 95-338, 123 Cong. Record 3658-3659 (1977) (emphasis added); see also, Phillips Petroleum Co. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 803 F.2d at 560 (concluding that if a requirement on injecting activities is necessary to assure that underground sources of drinking water are not endangered, whether that requirement impedes mineral recovery is irrelevant because the “clear and overriding concern” of Congress in passing the Act was to assure the
safety of “present and potential sources of drinking water”).
Further, the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee reported the following, “the Committee sought to assure that constraints on energy production activities would be kept as limited as possible while still assuring the safety of present and potential sources of drinking water.” from New Mexico Environmental Law Center
California Water Conservation And The Full Utilization Of Resources
Remote groundwater aquifers of the North State interior and North Coast are at risk under the 'new' Well Stimulation Regulations' package SB 4. Unconventional non-associated gas reservoirs and remote basin aquifers are often associated geographically, however they are geologically separate. The tight-gas reservoirs produce mostly dry gas, in the northern half of the State.
Steam Injection, is another water intensive GHG emitting method of oil and/or gas extraction; Steam Injection Is Literally Global Warming.
From Kern County, California to the Alaskan Tundra, Global Warming Is A Literal Translation
Extreme Oil Drilling (National Geographic)
“It takes 81 trillion btu’s everyday just to warm the ground here at Kern.”
25 square miles to 1600 feet deep. It takes so much energy, enough to power one large air conditioner for every human being on the planet.” It takes 81 Trillion btu's per day to heat Kern County to 200 degrees. How many mercury light bulbs does it take to save one billion kW per hour?
Kilowatt Hours (Kwh) to btu (british thermal unit) conversion table shows the most common values for the quick reference.
1 Kwh = 3,412.14163 Btu/hr
81 Trillion btu's per day
81 trillion divided by 24 (hours) =
3,375,000,000,000 btu per hr
3,375,000,000,000 btu divided by 3,412 btu/hr =
almost a billion KW per hour
I know the Frackinator Governor of California 'said' that of all the states, “and even of most of the countries of the world, California is the leader in dealing with climate change. From AB 32, to our building and appliance efficiency standards, our renewable portfolio standard and our support of electric vehicles, California is leading the way.
Leading The Way With Pollution Permits (Carbon Markets)
California has a carbon credit trade agreement (WCI) with Quebec for mostly hydro-power carbon credit allowances. In 2007 there were 7 States and 4 Provinces, but 6 fracked States had to back out in 2012, and Quebec and B.C. are the only Provinces left as market Standards tighten.
The California Supreme Court has applied the public trust doctrine to preserve public rights of navigation, fishing, and recreation along the state’s beaches, the San Francisco Bay waterfront, and inland waters including the American and Sacramento Rivers and Lake Tahoe. In Marks v. Whitney (1971), the court declared that the public trust protects not only the traditional uses recognized under English and American common law but also “the preservation of those lands covered by the trust in their natural state, so that they may serve as ecological units for scientific study, as open space, and as environments which provide food and habitat for birds and marine life, and which favorably affect the scenery and climate of the area.”
And in 1983, The Supreme Court held that the “public trust doctrine and the appropriative water rights system are parts of an integrated system of water law. The public trust doctrine serves the function in that integrated system of preserving the continuing sovereign power of the state to protect public trust uses, a power which precludes anyone from acquiring a vested right to harm the public trust, and imposes a continuing duty on the state to take such uses into account in allocating water resources.” (National Audubon Society v. Superior Court)
We need to overhaul the Oil and Gas industry regulations in State of California in their entirety. But for now, for the sake of our water, our air, our rivers, our food, and our communities, we need to Ban Fracking in California.
Initiate Fracking Moratoriums Now;
before exploratory wells, and leases muddy the waters of stakeholders.
Folsom Lake holds 1,000,000 acre feet, though it's level is currently at about 17% of capacity. And that amount of water is pretty close to 55 billion gallons. But the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) goes up as well as the temperature, and all as the water level goes down. This leads to higher costs to clean to drinking water standards and the possibility of concentrated contaminates. At what level does technology fail? At what level of effort is the economic burden of decontamination going to outweigh the cost of transfers, which will exclude ecosystem benefits? 170,000 ac ft x 326,000 gallons equals about 55 billion gallons.