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10 Month Old Fennec Fox
Fennec Fox, photo by Tom Thai, via Wikimedia

Fennec foxes are small foxes found in the Sahara of North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, and as far south as northern Niger and as Far East as the Sinai Peninsula and Kuwait. They are the smallest canid (dog family) in the world:  “Its most distinctive feature is its unusually large ears, which serve to dissipate heat….Its coat, ears, and kidney functions have adapted to high-temperature, low-water, desert environments.  In addition, its hearing is sensitive enough to hear prey moving underground.  It mainly eats insects, small mammals, and birds.”  It weighs only “about 1.5–3.5 lb (0.68–1.6 kg), with a body length of between 24–41 cm (9–16 in)” Fennec are  “able to live without free water, as its kidneys are adapted to restrict water loss.  A fennec’s burrowing can cause the formation of dew.  They are also known to absorb water through food consumption; but will drink water if available.[5]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fennec_fox (references at link; bold added)
Fennec Foxes
Fennec Foxes, photo by Umberto Salvagnin via Wikimedia
Humans, on the other hand, are big and growing more numerous at the rate of 80 million people per year AND require lots of drinking water – in the liters per day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_water Humans are now said to be composed of about 60% water, with fat people composed of as little as 45% water. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_water (It used to be over 70% but the populations studied have gotten fatter which must account for the drop). Water needs increase with size and water needs increase with protein intake. This water must be fresh water, it cannot be salt water.  More than a little sea water leads to fatal dehydration, and shuts down the kidneys.  The end result is death.  Those who want to read a detailed description may read: http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/what-if/what-if-you-drink-saltwater1.htm  

Not only are we bigger than the fennec fox and unlike him we have huge water and food needs; humans have generally gotten bigger [1] AND more numerous. The world now has about 7.2 billion people and is growing at an average of 80 million additional people per year! For points of comparison, Egypt and Germany have total populations of about 82 million and France, the UK and Italy have total populations between 60 and 63 million. This huge growth rate has not always been the case. It is one big reason we are in trouble. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/  
Population curve

Water is also needed for the plants and animals, some of which all of these humans eat!  Generally, although not always, those who weigh more consume more food. Meanwhile there is not more clean water but less.  Inland aquifers are being drained.  Coastal aquifers are often undergoing salinization. Encroachment of salt water further inland due to depletion of fresh water aquifers can make the land itself salty thus killing any trees and making the land unfit for agriculture. Agricultural land is being lost in this way, and with mining.  Mining generally poisons the soil and makes it too acidic for most plants to grow. Meanwhile the world population continues to grow.  Birth control is discouraged, in the name of religion, by those whose real religion is that of growth at all costs. (Related to this is focus on growth within religious institutions because growth is money and power for their leaders).  Mining and related consumption is encouraged by those subscribing to the religion of growth at all costs.  This growth at all costs religion is evident in the assumptions of “business news” and elsewhere in the media.  The oft-cited Book of Genesis says to “fill the earth”, not to overfill it, and was targeting a tribe which, at the time, often hovered on the edge of extinction due to disease.  Contemporary humans have higher consumer expectations than ever before, as well as frighteningly greater numbers.  

As you may recall, about two weeks ago there was a new study:
Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania” by Nathaniel R. Warner et. al.
Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/es402165b
Publication Date (Web): October 2, 2013
The safe disposal of liquid wastes associated with oil and gas production in the United States is a major challenge given their large volumes and typically high levels of contaminants.  In Pennsylvania, oil and gas wastewater is sometimes treated at brine treatment facilities and discharged to local streams.  This study examined the water quality and isotopic compositions of discharged effluents, surface waters, and stream sediments associated with a treatment facility site in western Pennsylvania. The elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with the strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions of the effluents reflect the composition of Marcellus Shale produced waters. The discharge of the effluent from the treatment facility increased downstream concentrations of chloride and bromide above background levels.  Barium and radium were substantially (>90%) reduced in the treated effluents compared to concentrations in Marcellus Shale produced waters.  Nonetheless, 226Ra levels in stream sediments (544–8759 Bq/kg) at the point of discharge were 200 times greater than upstream and background sediments (22–44 Bq/kg) and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation in localized areas of shale gas wastewater disposal
.” http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es402165b
Drinking Water Security Poster EPA
Anything you read about mining, the nuclear industry, and now about fracking is how much water they consume. And, “Half of the United States population and 97% of rural residents depend on groundwater for their daily drinking water (National Groundwater Association, 1988).  Currently, the water quality is generally acceptable, but as more pollutants seep into the water supply over time, contaminated water will have serious detrimental effects on human health and ecosystems.http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2012/finalwebsite/problem/groundwater.shtml

Halliburton Frack Job in the Bakken
Fracking, Photo by Joshua Doubek
According to September 17, 2013 testimony by a Texas Rancher, Hugh Fitzsimons of Carrizo Springs, TX living through the fracking boom and drought:   “one of the largest oil and gas plays in the world has landed in Dimmit County.  Fracking in the Eagle Ford shale has wrought more change in two years than the past two hundred.  Our tax revenue, population, and public school enrollment are surging like a runaway eighteen-‐wheeler. Oil and gas production are up 134% over a year ago.  Most of the oil workers are imports from East Texas.  The price of a rental house is now out of reach for most citizens of Dimmit County.  But the hard facts are these:  1/3 of our available groundwater in Dimmit County per year is being lost to fracking. Because  the water used to inject the chemicals is absorbed by the formation, this process is 100% consumptive, unless the 20% that returns as flow backwater is recycled, all that water is lost. Unlike agricultural irrigation, fracking wastewater is lost completely. In short, we have a new, man-‐made water crisis etched atop the man-made crisis of climate change that produced the drought.
Drought photo by Tomas Castelazo
For years our normal rainfall was around 21 inches a year. A hydrologist tells me that unless we get between 15 to 17 inches of rain a year,there is no recharge. So we are now using up 1/3 of our groundwater a year, when we’ve had virtually no recharge for three years. We’re running on empty. The forecast under climate change, is for 12 to 15 inches of rain a year. In short, our water is being drained to produce the oil and gas that have produced a worldwide climate crisis“.  

There are moments in life that turn you.  Mine came in spring a year ago, when I flipped on the switch for my irrigation pump and got half the water I’d been producing before. From my irrigation pump, I could see no fewer than four drilling rigs, each of them sucking 3-5 million gallons of fresh water per frack. My fresh water was being drained, and there seemed nothing I could do about it.  My anger made me run for office as a director of the Wintergarden Water Conservation District. Somehow, I prevailed and started to learn water law, rule of capture, and how to start the energy companies conserving water. The problem is, in our district, oil and gas are exempt from the permitting process. In other words, we, the designated water authorities, are nearly powerless to conserve and protect the water on which all of life depends. Dimmit County, as you may have gathered, has never been well off.  Now, we face two new threats. First, is the vacuuming up of our water for fracking, and removing it from the hydrologic cycle. The second threat is just as serious. Because the riches of oil and gas production are falling like manna from heaven, no one wants to talk about our water – least of all, state regulators — even if our water’s disappearing.

To explain: in order to dispose of toxic wastewater from fracking, wells are injected deep into the earth. If the wells are correctly constructed and in the right geologic formation, they’re reasonably safe. The problem is: there are from 10,000 to 100,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the state, and Texas regulators have no idea where and how many there are. But if an injection well for fracking wastewater is drilled near an abandoned old well, and its well casing or cement job gives way, toxic waste from the disposal can migrate to the old well, flow up the pipe, and contaminate the groundwater.

Our water district has made protesting these injection wells a top priority. But when I last appeared this summer before state regulators, they didn’t want to hear about it, The examiner and judge labeled our hydrologist’s questions ‘hearsay,’ and my invoking those questions was stricken from the record. In other words, denial is not just a river in Egypt. It was one thing to have the disposal well company ignore our questions. When the judge declared the disposal well company didn’t have to answer our questions because the law didn’t require it, it became clear that the denial in our state is as deep as the injection wells”   Entire testimony here: http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=news/forum-on-the-impacts-of-climate-change-safe-climate-caucus  (bold added for emphasis)  Note that in 2011 it was predicted that there would be one well per 3 people in Dimmit county (see our footnote 2)

The water used in mining and fracking will be polluted and even where re-injected into the earth (hopefully) never to be used again can pollute neighboring aquifers either during injection or afterwards.  Mr. Fitzsimons mentions a “20% that returns as flow backwater” which might be recycled.  The Warner study discusses still-polluted  “treated” water, which is released to streams and suggests that due to large volumes not all water from fracking is (re) injected; rather some is recycled.  This is presumably the 20% frac flow back water discussed by Mr. Fitzsimons.  Regardless, the impact is less drinking water for humans or animals; less water for irrigation.  The impact is more polluted water.  And, again, meanwhile the earth seems to be warming.  The population is growing.  Many areas of the world are at risk of desertification from mining, from quarries to build housing for growing populations, agriculture for the growing population, and the deforestation which accompanies mining, quarries and agriculture.  

Especially in times of drought, people and animals are dependent upon wells dug into aquifers.  Inland aquifers depend upon rainwater for refill, although some refill quickly and others very slowly:  “The main problem with groundwater in the Western Northern American Region of the world is that water is being withdrawn from aquifers at a rate much greater than the recharge rate.” http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2012/finalwebsite/problem/groundwater.shtml 

Four hours drive north of Mr. Fitzsimons’ place they have run out of water:   
A Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water
Fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry and people thirsty
Suzanne Goldenberg in Barnhart, Texas

theguardian.com, Sunday 11 August 2013 15.07 BST

Texan drought sets residents against fracking
Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.”

The Guardian says that 30 Texas towns may not have water at all by the end of the year.  But, it seems worse than that.  According to the Texas government web site there are a total of 1,225 out of 4,655 communities impacted by water restrictions.  442 are on “watch” status and 783 are on Mandatory restriction as of October 10, 2013. The following link gives a list of Texas PWSs Limiting Water Use to Avoid Shortages; Updated weekly. The below map shows the location of each system on the list. http://www.tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/trot/droughtw.html
Texas Drought http://www.tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/trot/droughtw.html
So, this is current news. It is not old news as critics of the Guardian article have alleged.  These naysayers say that it is population growth that has caused it, rather than fracking  They don’t believe in global warming either.  The thing is it doesn’t really matter that much why it has warmed, it has warmed.  These same people are probably against birth control, but yet wonder where the population who is using that water is coming from?  (Perhaps because sex ed has been outlawed in many US schools on “religious” grounds.)  More locally there is influx of population drawn in to work in fracking.  Meanwhile, fracking uses a lot of water.  Water that will not re-enter the water cycle, or if it does it is polluted.  Water that is sorely needed for humans and animals alike, especially in times of drought.    

Older people and maybe younger ones too will recall at least a few lines of Samuel Coleridge’s 1798 poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner“.  (Coleridge is considered an English “Lake District Poet”.  The Lakes District water is threatened by the nuclear power industry):
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Regarding water in the Lake District see the reblogged articles: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/why-has-the-wettest-place-in-england-not-got-enough-freshwater/ https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/wasdale-show-says-no-again/ 

Gustave Dore Ancient Mariner Illustration
The Ancient Mariner Illustration by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
And, so we are becoming on the ship of earth, like the Ancient Mariner, with less and less water to drink, and we are polluting it at an ever quicker rate. Earth has 80 million more inhabitants per year that require liters of drinking water.  What about purification and desalination?  Yes, but this takes energy, which makes a vicious circle, especially when we are dealing with fracking, uranium mining, and nuclear energy.  Anyway, the dangers of nuclear energy at every level (mining, power plants, no place to dispose of waste) should have been abundantly clear even before Fukushima, and much more now.  There is other mining, like diamond mining, for which there is no justifiable need and for other metals, little justifiable need. These too use water and poison the water and the land. One need not look any farther than the ads for Dolphin Energy where they are piping natural gas from Qatar’s North Field to be used to desalinize water in the UAE to see the problem.  It takes energy to desalinate, so there is a vicious circle.  

The Dolphin ad says something about thus fueling population growth.  But, why and then what?  Constant growing population (and greed) is the only real reason that economies must grow.  The growing population means there needs to be more jobs.  Then there is more need for food and water; more pressure on the environment.  There is, of course, the option of using solar to desalinize coastal areas.  However, this is apparently not a good solution for inland areas, due to transport issues.  And, there are limitations as to the amount of population and agriculture in coastal areas, which are often impacted by storms.      

Some more information about impacts of energy on water see: http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/water-discharge.html http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/water-resource.html
(The US EPA has been kind enough to leave their web sites up with a little note that they will not update due to the government shut-down.  However, USGS and the Parks Service and some agencies have shut down their web sites apparently to protest.)
This article, which we have reblogged, speaks about both fracking and Lake District nuclear wastes in the UK: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/your-move-if-wishes-were-horses-greenpeace-would-be-actively-opposing-nukiller/

Note regarding pictures:  The picture of dried earth is from Mexico but we have seen similar pictures from Texas and Arkansas.  However, due to copyright issues we are using the Mexican one as a “stock” photo.  For the same reasons, the Fracking picture is from North Dakota rather than from Texas.  
[1] The wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height is very disappointing.  There needs to be average height by decades and by ethnic groups within countries.  Height by social class would be nice to have as well.  Apparently some countries had increasing heights which have since dropped off, if the chart is accurate.  It would be interesting to see if this was related to influx of shorter migrants, overpopulation, change in diet etc.  Were earlier American migrants taller because of better food and more space or did it have to do with the groups who migrated first (e.g. Scots border clans), whereas later migrants were from shorter ethnic groups (e.g. southern Italy): “Average height of Americans and Europeans decreased during period of rapid industrialization, possibly due to rapid population growth and increased economic inequality.[36] In early 19th century England, the difference between average height of English upper class youth (students of Sandhurst military academy) and English lower class youth (marine society boys) reached 22 cm (6.7 in), the highest that has been observed.[37]  …
According to a study by J.W. Drukker and Vincent Tassenaar, the average height of Dutch decreased from 1830 to 1857, even while Dutch real GNP per capita was growing at an average rate of more than 0.5 percent per year. The worst decline were in urban areas that in 1847, the urban height penalty was 2.5cms (1 in). Urban mortality was also much higher than rural regions. In 1829, the average urban and rural Dutchman was 164 cm (5 ft 4.6 in). By 1856, the average rural Dutchman was 162 cm (5 ft 3.8 in) and urban Dutchman was 158.5 cm (5 ft 2.4 in).[39]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height  For some information on increasing food intake see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_weight http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity  While not all overweight people eat more, as a general rule the more people weigh the more food they consume.  
[2]  Dimmit county population estimate for 2012 is 10,461    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimmit_County,_Texas
The Eagle Ford oil field was reported to be under development in 2011 with 3,000 wells projected to extract oil by hydraulic fracturing from tight shale formations. The oil play has improved business activity in the county but raised fears regarding the adequacy of water supplies as fracking requires injection of large quantities of water under pressure into wells to break surrounding rock.[22]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimmit_County,_Texas (their reference is NYT, 2011)